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.
Next up: the only EP anyone talks about…
(1999) Fearless Records
Although At The Drive-In ultimately put out five EPs – including a split with Sunshine – the only one anyone seems to talk about is Vaya, which turned out to be their penultimate solo release before the infamous 2001 split.
It’s no wonder; it’s really quite good. EPs are often either tentative steps into a band’s initial sounds – as indeed ATDI’s were – or stepping stones, experimenting with new sounds in a less involved format.
Vaya falls into the latter category, bridging the pressure cooker sound of In/Casino/Out with the band’s best-known output, ‘final’ album Relationship Of Command.
Opener “Rascuache” – Spanish for ‘tacky’ or ‘kitsch’ – is anything but. Opposed to the records that bookend it, it starts Vaya off at a more sedate pace, playing with brooding rhythms and a sparse introduction of instruments before the song really kicks into gear.
It’s a bright-sounding EP for the most part – mid-record songs like “Ursa Minor” and “Heliotrope” shimmer via sunny guitars, and are pacey affairs – but there is a definite dark side to it too. “Metronome Arthritis” is led by the rhythm section of Hajjar and Hinojos, and the whole song is in service to creating this dark, pulsating inevitability. It’s slow, with Cedric’s tortured vocals either a menacing murmur, or a pained yell.
A final sombre note, showcasing At The Drive-In’s melancholy side further, is closer “198d” It feels the most poignant of the seven; a trait the band were definitely capable of. ’198d’ was the inscription on the gravestone of Tony Hajjar’s grandmother, who was buried in a mass grave in Lebanon. It’s a quiet piece all told, with very sparse instrumentation, only breaking into more full-on sections around the chorus.
So although not a full album, Vaya is packed full of tasty treats, and it’s well worth devouring.