A day many thought would never come. Highly accredited post-hardcore legends At The Drive-In have returned with their first album in seventeen years. in•ter a•li•a features Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez back together under their maiden band. As a successor to 2000’s genre defining Relationship of Command it has large shoes to fill.
There are lots of reason to judge this record. Age is most certainly a factor. Bixler-Zavala was nearly 25 at the release of Relationship of Command. At 42 he has all the sensibilities of his past self, but none of the wreckless abandon that comes with youth invincibility. It’s noticeable that his bite is missing a few fangs. On top of that, despite earlier promises guitarist and founding member Jim Ward did not return for the album. Fans of his work on previous albums and current band Sparta will miss his presence here. There are moments across the whole album that feel hollow in comparison to earlier At The Drive-In songs. But that may also be a symptom of the squeaky clean production. Recording has come miles since 2000, which inadvertently strips in•ter a•li•a of the low-fi fuzz fans have become attached to over decades.
I am here to tell you that beyond all of those prejudices, in•ter a•li•a is a solid album written by the tried and true musicians you all know and love. While it’s true what I said about Bixler-Zavala’s voice, that says nothing about the performance he leaves in its place. His lyrics are as dense and dizzying as ever, but the more melodic delivery of them helps with diction and understanding. “Call Broken Arrow” features my personal favorite chorus with Bixler-Zavala crooning over stolen flowers and a far gone prince. There is definitely no shortage of imaginative landscapes.
in•ter a•li•a has a layer of polish to it that sets it apart from previous albums though. Mania has been replaced by a steady groove that may off put those in it for the nostalgia. “Governed by Contagions” makes use of a sing-song pop-punk hook that feels derivative of themselves. Perhaps this is just post-hardcore in 2017 versus 2000 though. in•ter a•li•a has all of the elements that make up an At The Drive-In record. Perhaps that is all it needs.
At The Drive In | Rise Records