Album Review: At The Drive In – in•ter a•li•a

Review from Ben Forrester

When At The Drive In announced their reunion back in 2012, I was fully pumped. In my eyes their 2000 album ‘Relationship Of Command‘ is a post-hardcore masterpiece, so the idea of them playing these songs in a live capacity again, knowing how crazy their live shows were, made me shriek with excitement! Although I didn’t make it to any of these comeback shows I did see some live footage of them and it was very apparent that the band weren’t the sprightly, care-free teens they once were. It just seemed like the passion had been sucked out and money had taken over.

After the tour, At The Drive In seemed to just disappear back into the ether again, but here we stand five years later and they’ve only gone and made a brand new bloody full length! I’ll admit that after the 2012 shows, I wasn’t completely overjoyed at the prospect of new At The Drive In material, but due the the sheer magic of their previous outputs, I was prepared to give them a chance and give ‘in•ter a•li•a‘ a spin.

No Wolf Like The Present‘ starts off the record with 30 seconds of tension; there’s this ominous bass tone underneath whispered voices and the sound of tape being rewound. It makes you nervous, on edge, unaware of what is going to happen and then, on the left side of your speaker a spiky as fuck guitar riff comes in to then be joined on the right side, fully fizzing. And then, BANG! A big bastard firework of a rhythm section explodes in your ears, wanting to make your dog bark, wanting to piss of your neighbours, and it’s clear that within 1 minute that At The Drive In are BACK BACK BACK and taking absolutely no prisoners.

Every member in this band plays a unique part in creating the sound that makes people lose their shit and although this album may not bare any new tricks, it doesn’t want to, it just wants to make unapologetic cosmic punk bangers. It’s a pretty straight up rock record really, it barely takes a breath and every track is packed with the same sweat and urgency as it did nearly two decades ago. Bassist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar are the prefect team as they deliver each track with a ferociously stomping rhythm section. They have such a way with groove too and it’s hard to not get locked into the drive of ‘Hostage Stamps‘ or the chest swelling punch of comeback single ‘Governed By Contagions‘.

Another strong partnership within ATDI was the inventive and playful interaction between guitarists Jim Ward and Omar Rodriguez. With Jim out of the picture here, new boy Keeley Davis steps up and totally holds his own, delivering some sharp rhythm guitar lines to counteract Omar’s well loved, phased out noodling; check the intro to ‘Pendulum in A Peasant Dress‘ for the sweetest licks. All the guitar lines are really great throughout, I guess it can come across a little too angular at first but a few listens in and everything seems to slot into place nicely.

I also felt the same way with some of the methodical hooks on here. At first, I struggled to hear the catchy as hell hooks that ATDI are so well known for, but again it requires another listen to really let them sink in. Once you’re in there though, it’s hard to get out – the chorus of ‘Incurably Innocent‘ being the best example here, with vocalist Cedric Bixler bringing one of his most heart on sleeve moments to date. Cedric sounds completely convincing throughout the record here, his vocal acrobatics sounding revitalized and strong.

In a world of uncertainty, filled with anger, many have been waiting for a way to mentally vent their energy and frustrations. in•ter a•li•a provides this soundtrack. It combines the cosmic fury of Relationship Of Command with the youthful punk scrappiness of ‘In/Casino/Out‘ and punches through a brick wall with it. Some have said that At The Drive In have become a parody of themselves here, but the point of this album is not to re-invent, it is to re-instate. At The Drive In have pissed all over your front door again, what ya gonna do about it?

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