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At the Drive In, ‘in•ter a•li•a’ – Album Review

Georgia Malone
Rise Records

At the Drive In have found themselves in an uncannily similar position as Swedish outfit Refused. Both are extremely revered post-hardcore acts who teetered on the brink of mainstream popularity at the dawn of the new millennia with albums that have since been considered landmarks of the genre; for Refused, it was 1998’s The Shape of Punk to Come and for ATDI, it was 2000’s Relationship Command. Each effort featured respective anthems — “New Noise” on the former, “One Armed Scissor” on the latter.

The two bands essentially broke up while on the road in support of their near-breakthrough records, leaving a cult legacy to grow for a decade or more before an eventual reunion tour brought them an overdue recognition. Those reconvenings would then lead to new albums, for each it would be their first in 17 years – and fourth overall – and each band would have a key member depart along the way; in the case of At the Drive In, it was founding guitarist Jim Ward.

Much like Refused and their “comeback album” Freedom, At the Drive In’s in•ter a•li•a is sure to be polarizing in terms of fans’ reception. It’ll be considered either too nostalgic or not pushing the envelope into uncharted territory sufficiently, coming down to preference at the end of the day.

Ultimately, At the Drive In’s in•ter a•li•a retains more than enough nods to the past to fit in nicely with their catalog while at the same time lay a future foundation, albeit one that’s still setting. It was the intent all along, as guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López told the New York Times that he tried to put himself into the mindset he was in while making Relationship of Command — for instance, where his stimulation was coming from in film, books and, of course, musically. It’s not surprising then to find deep familiarity in songs like lead single “Governed by Contagions” and “Torrentially Cutshaw,” a pair which crackle with skittering guitars and propelling vocals which waver between singing and hammering screams from Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

At the Drive In might have found solace and comfort in the past, but there’s spots of unavoidable growth, too. The slowly churning “Ghost-Tape No. 9” is the more mature cousin sonically to Command’s “Invalid Litter Dept.” and album opener “No Wolf Like the Present” is a snarling riff on, interestingly enough, being reverential or a servant to the past.

A portion of the material is more accessible than past efforts, too. “Incurably Innocent” has one of the more emo choruses the band have put forth, and “Hostage Stamp” features a riveting interplay between the vocals and guitars.

Again, nothing is breaking new ground, and comparatively, this is where the contrast to Refused comes in. At the Drive In tailor made an album that would entice their longtime fans whereas Refused moved forward with something noticeably different than what built them a following in the first place. In the end, it all comes down to preference, as neither feels less authentic than the other. At the Drive In have done their fans a solid, especially those who might’ve missed them the first time around. This is their present: both a gift to their diehard followers and a representation of the current musical leaning of the band.

See Our Photos From At the Drive In’s Recent NYC Show

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