Release Date: May 5, 2017
Record label: Rise
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
But that kind of frenetic energy can only burn bright and fast, and only a few months after the album's release, the band imploded. Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López went on to traverse proggier universes with The Mars Volta while founding guitarist Jim Ward, bassist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar formed Sparta . That was 27 years ago, and while the musical landscape has shifted, Relationship of Command has lasted the test of time, indefatigable and resolute as one of the best post-hardcore albums ever made.
Bands reunite for all sorts of reasons, but At The Drive In's has never really been clear. Their much-ballyhooed Coachella comeback in 2012 was bloodless enough to be upstaged by a Tupac hologram, but even before that, lead guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López had likened the reformed ATDI to "an old T-shirt that doesn't fit me anymore". Four years of infighting and inactivity later, and for reasons as arcane and inscrutable as one of Cedric Bixler-Zavala's lyrics, they announced they'd be recording a new album - but without Jim Ward, who's been replaced by his Sparta bandmate Keeley Davis.
WHAT'S DIFFERENT: The passage of time didn't dull any of the edges the members of At The Drive-In forged on their last LP, 2001's Relationship Of Command. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Keeley Smith create tangled guitar helixes and charging riffs; frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala is one part street preacher, the other radical paramilitary poet ("Continuum," "Hostage Stamps"); and the rhythm section of Paul Hinojos and Tony Hajjar are pure firepower. WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Nearly 25 years ago, ATDI were an undeniable force in not only defining the post-hardcore movement, but crucial provocateurs in expanding its very aesthetic.
L isten to El Paso post-hardcore band At the Drive-In's new album and it might feel as if time has stood still. In 2000, the band released the no-holds-barred Relationship of Command; they were at the height of their popularity, but broke up just a year later. There have been two reunion tours since then, and now a fourth album manages to pick up where they left off.
Welcome back. They said themselves it would never happen, but At The Drive In have recorded 11 new songs. Seventeen years after their phenomenal final album, 'Relationship Of Command', the uncompromising Texans are back – sans hyphen for some reason – and spitting the fire these turbulent times warrant. Noticeably less refined than the aforementioned masterpiece, 'Pendulum In A Peasant Dress', 'Tilting At The Univendor' and 'Torrentially Cutshaw' are part of a breathlessly jagged, abrasive, unruly and punk as fuck whole. Only penultimate track, 'Ghost-Tape No.9', slows things down, an all-too-brief pause for thought before the violent storm of rebellion starts up again one last time. .
At the Drive In are back -- but undeniably changed. With the release of their long, long-awaited fourth studio album, in•ter a•li•a, which follows the now-canonized 2000 fireball, Relationship of Command, fans will be forced to alter their long-preserved idea of ATDI. That caricature immortalizes the band as unclassifiable workhorses. Five kids from El Paso, Texas who toy with elements of punk, hardcore, metal, and even pop music, who Rolling Stone once called "too punk to be metal and too metal to be punk," who used to wake up at 7:30am to practice for nine hours straight, who toured their asses off in the late '90s and early '00s, and who eventually burned out hard and went on an indefinite hiatus at their commercial peak in 2001.
At The Drive In has a history of surfacing when rock and roll needs them most. At a time when boy bands and and teen pop largely ruled over popular music, 2000's Relationship of Command helped usher in a new wave of interesting, innovative rock and roll into the mainstream. Much like Nevermind nearly a decade prior, Relationship was one of a small handful of epochal records that signified a musical sea change in the early oughts.
In the Nineties, El Paso, Texas' At the Drive In were an art-punk hailstorm informed by Fugazi, Pink Floyd and a little Tito Puente. Their highpoint was the landmark 2000 LP, Relationship of Command, which thrashed somewhere in the liminal space between Rage Against the Machine's funk-metal spitfire and the taunting stop-start antics of lateral-thinking hardcore ranters Refused. Splintering away from the steel-toed punk establishment, the band tipped the post-hardcore genre towards something much more free-form - and maraca-friendly.
Let's get it right out of the way, shall we? No. Ah, but to what, precisely, does that blunt negative refer to? The weight of expectation can be a terrible thing, but such are the breaks when you choose to follow up a bulletproof work of truly spectacular art. Throw in a near two-decade wait for said sequel and the worry is that you've written yourself into an especially harsh corner long before fans and critics have had anything approaching a taste.
Who could have seen this coming? When At The Drive In announced that they were breaking up 17 years ago they seemed like the last band that would ever get back together. I mean, was anyone actually fooled into thinking their split was temporary by them calling it "an indefinite hiatus"? From the outset, they were divided into two factions that could never be fully reconciled. On one side you had Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez: the afro-sporting, experimental pair who grabbed all the attention by going absolutely ballistic on stage.
Relationship of Command, El Paso, TX post-hardcore vets At the Drive-In's explosive 2000 swan song, was a once in-a-career record. Even at the time, it was hard to imagine the quintet matching the manic ferocity and sticky hooks that catapulted the group to the top of the new rock heap and inspired dozens in their wake. Coming 17 years after the fact, In•ter A•li•a, has quite the hill to climb. The members of At the Drive-In have been anything but quiet in the years since their 2001 split -- guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez released more than a dozen solo albums last year alone -- so fans have certainly seen and heard their progression as musicians.
Delivering on almost two decades of anticipation would be a near-impossible feat for any band. In the case of post-hardcore heroes At the Drive-In, this insurmountable challenge also holds true. in•ter a•li•a, their follow-up to 2000's classic Relationship of Command, arrived 17 years after the breathlessly intense "One Armed Scissor" and "Arcarsenal" catapulted them into the mainstream, leading to a split soon after.
Take a few minutes to reacquaint yourself with the "One Armed Scissor" video. The one shown on MTV , the late night performances , any will do. This was how most of the world was introduced to At the Drive In , and every time, the El Paso band was presented as the most exciting shit imaginable in 2000: the explosive intraband dynamic, their acrobatic musicality, the barely controlled violence of their live performances, the afros.
That's the way the toy monkey claps. It's difficult to approach in•ter a•li•a without feeling At The Drive-In's previous efforts looming over one's shoulder. The average Relationship of Command acolyte (upon release) has roughly doubled in age since Y2K. Combining the forward-thinking ambiguity of that record with the chronological gap between then and now, many fans treat RoC - and, to a lesser extent, their other efforts - as sacrosanct.
After 17 long years since their last release, legendary post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In are back, after a self-confessed 'money grab' reunion tour a few years ago. Their last release, the excellent Relationship of Command, sounded like a band exploding with inventive ideas but also one falling apart personally. So what a shame it is, then, to find in•ter a•li•a, a blatant attempt to re-connect to a feeling and a moment that simply isn't there anymore.
Bowing out at the turn of the millennium with their undisputed crowning glory, third album ‘Relationship Of Command’, At The Drive In were always going to be up against it with what they produced next. ‘in•ter a•li•a’ begins with a song called ‘There’s No Wolf Like The Present’, and it’s clear across the whole record that At The Drive In have no real interest in looking back. Singles ‘Incurably Innocent’ and ‘Governed By Contagions’ show the El Paso five-piece to be as ballistic and angry as ever, and they bound through the album’s 11 tracks with complete abandon.
Whether you'd like to admit it or not, At The Drive-In helped shape a generation of musicians for decades to come when they took the 90's by storm. Be it the underground or mainstream outlets like MTV, they showed they had something very unique to them in the realm of post-hardcore with albums whose statements resonated deep within those who were willing to look past the commercial fluff. Come 2001, on the heels of arguably their biggest success, Relationship of Command, they decided to call it quits.
At The Drive In are the epitome of the romanticised punk-ethic high school band aesthetic, a group of friends forming a band in their youth as a release from everything else, slowly and through years of graft and commitment, finding an unexpected but entirely merited level of international acclaim. Returning after a 17-year absence, At The Drive In claim to have rekindled their friendships and enjoyment for playing together, and few would begrudge that earnest, amicable endeavour. But the nature of artistic statement these prodigal sons would make with their returning album deserves dissection, and placement within the narrative of these musician's paths.
In commercial rock's post-millennium, pre-9/11 wasteland, where nu-metal and arena rock ran amok as spoiled, unchallenged apex predators, At the Drive In were a pack of rabid hyenas. They binged on hardcore’s corpse only to spew forth the spoils, leaving behind an ADD-addled, genre-defying mess that managed to capture the hearts of the MTV2 set in spite of the band's confrontational MO, both on record and onstage. But just as the madness reached its apex, At The Drive In's ceaseless momentum came to a screeching halt after the release of third album Relationship of Command in 2001, followed shortly thereafter by a schism between the band's two creative factions.
The world has changed a lot in the last 17 years, but you wouldn't know it listening to At The Drive In's newest record. Since the seminal post-hardcore group split to let grievances subside and pursue different projects, fans of the band have been aching for follow up to the lauded 'Relationship of Command'. However, 'Inter Alia' (stylised in•ter a•li•a), bar some souped-up production, isn't indicative of 17 years of progress -- and that's problematic.