At The Drive-In — In/Casino/Out

Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, Clear, 2012

When was the first time you discovered the nuances of a micro-genre? When you understood that the categories we assign at a high level often misrepresent the individuals within the categories — that there are better separations within those groups.

In high school, I worked at a Best Buy. (This will surely come up a lot, because I mostly put CDs away, and from those CDs came everything I knew about music.) There were several categories. Rock. Pop. Country. Jazz. Blues. Classical.

There were times when we had to make hard decisions. Hard decisions like “Does this Chris Gaines record go under rock, even though we know he’s actually Garth Brooks?” Crucial things like “Would you consider Smash Mouth rock or pop or just kind of horrible?”

I felt pretty good understanding that within that large “rock” area were some smaller genres I could parse out. There was punk and metal and hardcore and what ended up just being called “alternative.” But, man. There was more. There was way more.

I went a level deeper because my friends went a level deeper. I was pretty sure I knew punk, but it was when I realized that punk was really several dozen loosely connected levels of categorization — that there were primary and secondary and tertiary classifications. I heard Refused, which was punk and jazz. I heard At The Drive-In’s In/Casino/Out, and I remember thinking that it was clearly punk, but clearly different. This is not Bad Religion. This is not Green Day. This is …

Well, it was fantastic. That’s what it was. It was transformative — it helped me better understand the thin lines we place around even the most basic similarities — about our need to organize and categorize, and how uncomfortable we are with things that straddle those lines.

It’s funny, my job now is much different from that Best Buy job in all but one thing: my job helps to categorize concepts for easier navigation. The thing is, I began better understanding how categorization works — how our minds need to wrap circles around things, but how those circles aren’t the same for everyone.

It hasn’t taught me any more about that Chris Gaines record, though.