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 continue with the pressure-cooker of a middle child…
(1998) – Fearless Records
1998. Bill Clinton and Monica, the Euro, Google and of course In/Casino/Out. Okay, well maybe not quite as well known, but goddammit it ought to be!
The follow-up release to 1997’s El Gran Orgo EP was delivered despite the chaos of change and complications. Amidst a struggle to find a label willing or able to release on – even considering independently releasing the album themselves – before signing to the pop-punk driven Fearless Records; on top of adjusting to a revised line-up that had seen Omar Rodriguez moving from bass to guitar on the previous album, In/Casino/Out was chaotic in every respect.
Key to the unique flavour of this album was an attempt to capture the frenetic energy of their by-now infamous live shows. By recording the album in full band live takes, there is an underlying quality of cohesion and energy present that cannot by matched on any of their later releases. The entire album was mastered in under 24 hours and Cedric Bixler Zavala himself later said that the entire process was very rushed but that the band worked very well under this intense pressure.
In typical style, At The Drive-In immediately kick off the party. Atmospheric riffing juxtaposed with sharp staccato drumming and Cedric’s unmistakable shouting (‘singing’ would be generous here) is exactly the trademark that so many of us fell in love with. Fast-paced, punk-influenced, but with just a pinch of progressive styling. Welcome to In/Casino/Out; strap yourselves in.
How better to title a track than after Robert Vaughn’s suave, sophisticated spy in the Man from U.N.C.L.E? The opening dual picked twinkling guitars of Omar and band founder Jim Ward set to the dialed-back soulful musings of vocalist Cedric showcases the diversity that 90s era At The Drive-In were capable of. Demonstrating the band’s undeniable song-crafting skills, it steadily builds into something far more intense and before you know it you’re bellowing along “THIS IS FOREVER” at the top of your lungs.
For me personally this is the definitive At The Drive-In record; no other release of theirs went to such ends to capture what truly set them apart from their peers – those intense as fuck live performances. Forget the posers who will tell you Relationship Of Command is superior; step on board and gamble with your limbs and life.