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Album Reviews : At The Drive In – In•ter a•li•a

By on May 31, 2017

At the Drive-in’s year 2000 release, Relationship of Command, is a high-water mark for rock’n’roll.The hype is rarely justified (remember The Strokes, The Vines and Franz Ferdinand?). Yet occasionally a band offers a sound so incendiary, most fans of guitar driven music can’t help but stop and take notice.

In the past 25 years, the torch of ‘most important band in rock’ may have been moved from Guns’n’Roses to Nirvana, continued with Rage Against The Machine, NIN and then Tool. For a fleeting yet glorious moment the torch was passed to messrs Bixler (lead vocals), Rodríguez (guitar, backing vocals), Hinojos (bass guitar), Hajjar (drums) and Jim Ward (guitar, keys, backing vocals).

The bands ill-fated performances at the tragic ‘01 Big Day Out may have been the catalyst for the their untimely demise, yet it always felt as though the band had a story to tell beyond the three albums they had produced to that date. So here we are in 2017 talking about a new album from At the Drive-in, almost 17 years after Relationship of Command immolated rock’n’rolls conventions. But something is missing, or should I say, somebody is missing.

The public persona of the band’s dynamic rested with the charismatic Bixler and Rodríguez. Since the split in ‘01, the pair have produced a significant body of work between them via the excellent Mars Volta and a plethora of other high quality projects. Yet none of them sound like At the Drive-in.

When At the Drive-in split, the rhythm section joined Jim Ward and through time, Ward’s 2017 At The Drive-In successor, Keeley Davis, to produce far more straightforward post-hardcore in the under-appreciated Sparta.

That last point is the key to describing the song writing on In•ter a•li•a. Ward is At the Drive-in’s founding member with Bixler, so the DNA of the band’s sound may have been entwined between the two of them. He is also absent from this albums recording credits and the band released a statement announcing they had parted ways. It seems apparent then, without having read the liner notes or understanding how songwriting credit is issued in the band, that either Ward stuck around long enough to help pen many of the album cuts or, Davis thoroughly understood Ward’s contribution and apes it so masterfully that we actually have an album that could be deemed a worthy follow up to the colossal Relationship of Command.

No Wolf Like the Present” starts the album. 40 seconds in, the band launch into a songwriting narrative similar to Relationship of Command. Frankly… it’s fuckin’ glorious. The energy is there. The angular guitar crossing over the vocal. The bass sits in the middle of the mix, metaphorically leering at the other instrumentation. Hajjar’s drumming powers this vehicle… it’s the 425 hp at 6200 rpm forward thrust integral to the bands bleeding knuckle intensity.

There are layers of density and liberally applied brushes of outstanding musicality. I’ve lived with the album only a short while, it will take most listeners months to fully appreciate the various textures and colours through each song and I’m no different. Its albums like this I look forward to living with for longer than the allocated period of review and invariably any judgement I make now or pass on to the readership needs to be kept as concise as possible. Suffice to say that if you love the band for what they were, you will love the band for what they are now.

In•ter a•li•a is not as chaotic as early releases such as Vaya (‘99) and In/ Casino/ Out (‘97), I could use that dreaded ‘mature’ word to apply to the songwriting on the album… there is just a little more room to breathe and it is an album that you can play through the car stereo. I really am going to make a point of not diving too deep and singling actual tracks out for attention as I implore the readership to give the album a play through from “No Wolf Like the Present” to the closer, “Hostage Stamps”.

For new listeners… if you have a hankering for music that is genuinely rebellious, from a band that has made a habit of being the exception to the rule, I suggest that you get streaming.

I can’t even describe the material as approaching metal… yet some bands transcend a label warranting attention from the metal horde.

On the evidence presented on In•ter a•li•a, At the Drive-in are yet to offer a sub-standard album. After a 17 year break… that’s an incredible accomplishment.

Band: At The Drive In
Album: In•ter a•li•a
Year: 2017
Genre: Post Hardcore
Label:  Rise Records
Origin: United States


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith