This Station Is Non-Operational (With DVD) Best of
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In their first collaboration since the break-up, the members of At The Drive-in, (now split into The Mars Volta and Sparta) have handpicked a collection of their greatest hits, BBC Session, B-sides, re-mixes, and covers of The Smiths and Pink Floyd tunes which spans their entire career (1995-2001). The package will also include a companion DVD/CD-rom with music videos, desktop wallpaper, buddy icons, and Operations Manual;their EPK. The booklet will contain 20 unrleased photographs from the ATDI Archives. Fearless. 2005.
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However, this collection, whose title is taken from a lyric in "One-Armed Scissor," is a little iffy.
For one thing, my favorite ATDI album, Acrobatic Tenement is completely unrepresented.
This collection feels like it was compiled predominantly by Paul, Jim and Tony (the "Invalid Litter Dept." video looks like it was put together post-ATDI, for instance) and since they could only use the songs all three co-wrote, Acrobatic material was out of the question (Cedric, Omar and Jim were the only members in the band from '96 to their breakup.)
However, I feel that Acrobatic Tenement was their most raw and exciting album, so without any of the material (besides a hamfisted version of "Initiation") it is missing a key era in At The Drive-In's history.
In/Casino/Out is definitely well-represented, which also goes with the compiled-by-Sparta theory.
Relationship of Command-era tracks are split between rare tracks and album tracks.
It feels like they maybe should have put some more RoC songs on This Station like "Pattern Against User" or "Cosmonaut," but they probably didn't want to over emphasize their most well-known CD.
Vaya is slightly represented, and that's cool.
The rare material is interesting and varied (except for the hideous Rascuache remix) but there isn't enough rare tracks/covers or live tracks (much to the chagrin of people who never witnessed them live) to give die-hard fans anything new.
The CD is varied, but in my opinion, it doesn't represent some of their best material (Proxima Centari, Arcarsenal, Star Slight, Porfirio Diaz, Heliotrope, etc.) so I don't know if it's the best choice for new fans, either.
Really, if you want to hear ATDI's most raw CD, get Acrobatic Tenement.
If you want to hear their most trippy/varied CD, get In/Casino/Out.
If you want to hear their more catchy/intense CD, get Relationship of Command.
The DVD is the only thing that makes it worth the money, but it only makes me salivate for a huge DVD set of live material.
I'm glad Fearless made an effort to promote At The Drive-In besides reissuing all their old CDs, but I just feel like this collection is uneven and put together in a rushed manner.
But hey, it remasters their rare tracks, highlights their strong points, and gives their music videos and the rare EPK in DVD form, which makes it worth shelling $15.
Get it if you already love these guys and want all the rare material of ATDI you can get your hands on.
Like most hardcore ATDI fans, the thirst for ANY uncovered or remastered material is undeniable, irrefutable, and insatiable, despite the fact the band has dissolved and forged ahead with Sparta and The Mars Volta. As the old adage explains, the sum of the parts is not greater than the whole, and I believe ATDI fits that statement like a full five-finger glove. This sonically pleasing compilation is evidence of that.
Just taking a quick gaze at the tracklist would make most ATDI fans salivate. You get tantalizing selections culled from *most* of their albums, rare compositions previously only available on vinyl (or in illicit mp3 form), and a bonus DVD featuring long forgotten videos and the treasured "Relationship of Command" documentary / press kit. These is no doubt this release will be pleasing, even temporarily soothing, to the ATDI fan that is perpetually yearning for more. But will it be enough?
A four star rating seems trifling, despite the fact this compilation will be taking up residency in my CD player for an extremely long period of time. There is something intrinsically unsettling about this release that leaves me still unsatisfied and unable to drive the final nail in the ATDI disbanded coffin once and for all. I believe this confounded sensation stems from the odd inclusions and, more critically, exclusions. The fact there lacks a single representation from "Acrobatic Tenement" ("Initiation" here is the Lamacq version) is disconcerting. The omission of "Invalid Litter Dept." is downright perplexing, especially if this CD was released purportedly as a career retrospective.
However, despite these minor grievances, I covet this CD for many reasons, most notably the previously unreleased "This Night Has Opened My Eyes." Who knew that ATDI could pull off this uncanny Smiths cover with such ease, grace, and (...gulp...) authenticity?! The other rarities are tasty treats, allowing me to replace the inferior mp3 versions I once had to download due to lack of turntable ownership. Finally, the mastering is impeccable, especially with the some of the older material. All the tracks are normalized to a consistent volume, making the disk a coherent, pleasurable listen from start to finish.
To truly capture the visceral essence of ATDI, I would have suggested a few ideas to Fearless during the planning phases. While the DVD is an exercise in nostalgia, I would rather see a 2-disk set with disk 1 encapsulating additional album material and disk 2 exclusively devoted to the rare gems. This way, disk 2 could include some of the tracks that simply could not make it due to space limitations, such as "Catacomb, "Catacombs", "Extracurricular", the remaining Lamacq tracks, as well as some other live material.
I think "This Station is Non-Operational" is great for people just getting into ATD-I or that want to learn about a band that inspired another band or if you want to hear previous works from members of Sparta or The Mars Volta. Everybody says "Relaionship of Command" is their best work, but I disagree. It's just a continuation of their previous album, "in/CASINO/OUT".
All and all, this album is great and a good listen. It DOES leave out some of the best songs and tracks from other albums like "Acrobatic Tenement" (except for the BBC session of Iniatiation), but I think it's worth it - especially if you're a first time listener of the band.