Seventeen years after their last release, the genre-defining At The Drive-In return on record this week with fourth album in•ter a•li•a. In celebration, we’re taking a look at what came before; what about each of their earlier records made them so special.
We start, of course, with the inaugural full-length..
At The Drive In’s debut studio album, Acrobatic Tenement, is a high-energy, super-raw collection of songs that is at times unbridled, definitely unpolished and, as a whole, not as tantalising or satisfying as either In/Casino/Out, Vaya or Relationship of Command. It was obvious they were onto something, but it was also obvious they needed to work on producing their song writing and their sound. Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s voice feels a little less focused on this record than some of their later efforts, possibly due to studio/production restraints (apparently the album cost $600 to make – funnily enough similar in cost to another raw debut in Nirvana’s Bleach), but the passion in his delivery still manages to shine through.
The album sounds pretty close to what I imagine their live show would have been like at the time, however the guitars seem a little less experimental and possibly less overdriven compared to their live show. This was likely due to Omar Rodriguez playing bass in the band at the time, but maybe also due to rushing the recording or perhaps even a production oversight.
Like many (more likely most) others I worked my way backwards to this after being blown away by Relationship Of Command. “Initiation“, “StarSlight” and “Skips on the Record” are the standout tracks for me.
It’s a fun listen, fun to revisit, but I’d say only diehards (or try-hards even) would call this ATD-I’s best album.