At The Drive-In
5th May 2017 – Rise Records
01. No Wolf Like The Present
03. Tilting At The Univendor
04. Governed By Contagions
05. Pendulum In A Peasant Dress
06. Incurably Innocent
07. Call Broken Arrow
09. Torrentially Cutshaw
10. Ghost-Tape No.9
11. Hostage Stamps
Anyone who’s followed my writing over the past few years (so just the one of you then – hi mum!) will know my feelings on the last decade’s trend of bands reforming after significant periods away. In particular, it didn’t work for Refused, and in a similar vein, I was very reticent about the return of post-hardcore firebrands At The Drive-In, who similarly imploded following the release of their critically acclaimed masterpiece Relationship Of Command, all the way back in 2000.
Seventeen years later and they too have returned to the studio. Following such a watershed release is hard in a more conservative time frame, but after the best part of two decades, you have to wonder why, and if they are even giving themselves a chance.
The key difference between ATD-I and bands who have followed a similar path, however, is that in the intervening time, all of the members have continued to make music together – almost constantly. The most prolific collaborative pairing has been singer Cedric and guitarist Omar, who have during and since poured themselves into the likes of dub/reggae outfit De Facto, experimental progressive rock group The Mars Volta, Antemasque. Elsewhere, original members Jim Ward, Tony Hajjar and Paul Hinojos formed Sparta after the split, and although the latter left that set-up in 2005, his replacement Keeley Davis has also become his replacement in this new outing for At The Drive-In – so, no-one has particularly become a stranger to everyone else.
It is largely because of this – and also thanks to the enduring talent of the members – that in•ter a•li•a is a qualified success. It doesn’t feel like At The Drive-In never went away, but that they have come back together further along their respective paths, rather than reversing all the way back to the point at which they left each other. That being said, it doesn’t sound like any of those other bands – this is undeniably ATD-I: in the spoken, shouting, never-quite-singing of Bixler-Zavala; in Hinojos’ pounding, pace-setting bass; in the Latin-influenced punk drums of Hajjar. Keeley and Omar’s guitars squeal with that weird, almost out of tune dissonance, just as they ever did.
There are times where certain songs don’t quite work unless you’re properly blasting them out. Hinojos’ bass really is crucial to the overall depth and breadth of in•ter a•li•a, and muted, it can leave the guitars a little strung out – ”Call Broken Arrow” in particular suffers – but conversely, when you can properly hear it, it really makes certain songs pop. “Continuum” has a great bassline underpinning it, and a couple of narrow sections see the guitars drop away and it works spectacularly.
So against all odds, they’re back, and with a bang – the proverbial snakes are out of the bag again. This feels like a reunion album should; At The Drive-In aren’t pretending to be what they were, and as a result it feels all the more genuine. in•ter a•li•a is a worthy addition to the band’s catalogue, and if you liked them before, you should get kick out of this record too.