A wild, blistering return.
Label: Rise Records
Released: 5th May 2017
Like sodium hitting water, At the Drive In burned brightly, fiercely – emitting furious waves of scissor-kicking fever – and briefly, on hiatus since just after 2000’s taut, inventive ‘Relationship of Command’.
Forking into Sparta and The Mars Volta, each followed the melodic post-hardcore and spidery, progressive parts of AtDI’s sound along their own paths, with tireless guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López starting a series of experimental solo albums, set to hit 50 this year.
A reunion for Coachella and a few further shows came in 2012, but seemed underpowered, lacking that essential chemistry, and with no new material on the horizon. Now, the band are fully operational, and, calming any concerns following the recent departure of co-founder Jim Ward, ‘In•ter a•li•a’ is an earsplitting success.
Claws and hooks exposed, opener ‘No Wolf Like The Present’ thrusts itself in your face, snarling and spitting, at a pace which seldom slackens. With blind-siding tempo changes, flipping between thunderous motion and tense, churning grooves, ‘Continuum’ and ‘Tilting at the Univendor’ are almost as savage, even if it’s hard to pick out where all the fury is directed.
A cocktail of abstraction and ambiguity, the lyrics throughout ‘In•ter a•li•a’ take in old Hollywood (“Mannix the fixer to sage the ghosts”), false tooth-shaped cyanide capsules and whatever a “liquorice forgery” is. Arriving in December and February, singles ‘Governed By Contagions’ and ‘Incurably Innocent’ are among the strongest moments here. The first marries screeching discord and dubby bass with a chorus hook that should sit well with ‘Pattern Against User’ or the breakout ‘One Armed Scissor’, while the second – described by vocalist Cedric Bixler as being about abuse, and “being able to finally speak out” – is all furious momentum and blunt, painful imagery.
If more of the varying grains of ‘In/Casino/Out’ or ‘Relationship of Command’ might have been welcome – clean textures, or dubby breaks in the cloud – with only ‘Ghost-Tape No. 9’ adding a (still claustrophobic) sense of space, there’s little to fault here. At The Drive In sound as passionate as they did during their first, dazzling burst of activity; it’s a wild, blistering return. Rob Mesure