A record that becomes trapped in its own illustrious past...
'in•ter a•li•a'

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.

See, back in 2001, conversations between singer Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez suggested the band departing their frenetic, loud-quiet song structures to explore either experimental Pink Floyd sounds or join the crescendoing pedigree of alternative rock at the time. The band did neither. And that leaves us here, in 2017, where At The Drive In are picking up exactly where they left off.

This is a record that sounds like it was fun to record and write — getting the band back together, so to speak. But herein lies the issue: At The Drive In macheted the path so great bands like Biffy Clyro, Gallows and Fucked Up could find their sound so journeying back to the last checkpoint is superfluous. Their legacy and the ideas Drive In set out to create have been explored already; that trail has been blazed.

Yet, from the first moments of opener ‘No Wolf Like The Present’, it’s uncanny how much this album sounds like ‘Relationship Of Command’. Cedric’s lyrics still shudder with paranoia of clandestine institutions, draconian pharmaceutical companies and the ever-looming threat of a technological apocalypse. But on ‘Inter Alia’, most of the tracks’ narratives are undecipherable and consistently scatterbrained. Not to mention that the panoramic mixing of the guitars, while being a band trademark, make it difficult to focus on more than one aspect of a song at a time.

Drive In’s imagery has always been provocative but with politics at the forefront of culture today, we need Drive-In to recognise the importance of transparency. ‘Holtzclaw’ might be one of the few tracks that burrows into its own themes. The track is a gritty response to the disgusting offenses of Daniel Holtzclaw, the police officer that was sentenced for multiple counts of rape and sexual battery. The track hits hard and the squealing guitars have weight because of the grim association.

In other instances, like ‘Pendulum In A Peasant Dress’, the poly-rhythmic guitars are some of the better, more restrained, instrumentals on the record but Cedric’s snide and ratatat vocals confuse the narrative unnecessarily throughout.

If you’ve been counting the days until a new At The Drive In record materialised, ‘Inter Alia’ might be just what you were looking for. For Drive In completionists, it’s probably dense enough in narrative tangle to keep you occupied until the next release in the foreseeable future. In this cultural climate, we need music that looks into the future now more than ever — albums and artists that write off past triumphs and overtake even their successors.

5/10

Words: Will Butler

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