At The Drive-In in•ter a•li•a Rise Records
The ironic thing about At the Drive-In’s 2012 reunion is that the prospect of a new record seemed further away, not closer, once it was actually underway. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez admitted to NME that the reformation was driven by a desire to ascend to a higher tax bracket, that nostalgia played a part, too, and that there were no plans whatsoever for new music. On the one hand, it was refreshingly honest of him, but once they got to the stage, it was painfully obvious that they were going through the motions. When a band were once as vital as these Texans were first time around, even the slightest drop in the energy levels was going to disappoint.
Four years after the band had fizzled out again, At the Drive-In reconvened without guitarist Jim Ward. Little has been revealed about exactly what’s changed their minds about returning to the studio, but in•ter a•li•a certainly sounds like the consummate At the Drive-In record. The soundscapes are typically chaotic, the tempo always almost maniacally fast and, as usual, frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala drives the whole thing relentlessly forward both by the sheer force of character in his vocals and his typically abstruse political venting.
All of the requisite sonic components are present and correct and, on standout tracks like and Torentially Cutshaw, we’re reminded that, beneath the hectic exterior, this is a band who’ve always had an ear for melody. And yet, there’s something missing. It might sound like At the Drive-In, but it doesn’t quite feel like them; that thrilling sense of genuine danger – that feeling that everything might come barreling off the tracks at any given moment – isn’t there any more. Perhaps it’s to be expected, given they’re all longer in the tooth and settled in their personal lives, but as much as in•ter a•li•a has all the superficial qualities of an At the Drive-In album, the nervousness and tension that truly defined them has dissipated, perhaps never to return.