Punk band satisfies fans

Standouts from 2000s return after 17 years

By Xavier Johnson, Scene Editor

Following up a classic album can be difficult for any band. Following up a classic album after 17 years is an exceptionally difficult task. Post-hardcore standouts At the Drive-In reached a high peak in the early 2000s releasing the influential “Relationship of Command.”

“Interalia” (stylized as in•ter a•li•a) is At the Drive-In’s first studio album in 17 years and is one of the more impressive comeback albums in recent memory. While the album is not better than its earlier efforts in “Relationship of Command” and “In/Casino/Out,” it doesn’t necessarily have to be better.

What “Interalia” brings to the table is a fun, consistently high energy return from a band that maintains its distinct sound while having a different enough feeling where it’s not “Relationship of Command Part 2.”

The main group from 17 years ago is mostly intact for this reunion. The only difference is the absence of guitarist Jim Ward, who has been replaced by Keeley Davis.

Once the first chorus kicks in on “No Wolf Like the Present,” it becomes clear this is an At the Drive-In album. The frantic guitar playing of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez melding with the heavy rhythmic backing of Paul Hiniojos on bass and Tony Hajjar on drums is instantly recognizable alongside vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s expressive screaming and melodic singing.

Also, with the first track At the Drive-In displays its distinct ability to craft an anthemic chorus as Bixler-Zavala begins screaming “There’s no wolves like the present.” This ability to create notable choruses is the main standout of the album with every song having a catchy chorus that exudes energy.

Bixler-Zavala maintains the eccentricities and intensity that are a signature to his singing. There are moments on the album where he is hard to understand. “Pendulum In A Peasant Dress” is one notable example. The instruments drown Bixler-Zavala out. The vocals feel like an ad-on rather than an integral part of the song.

“Interalia” clocks in with a 41-minute runtime. This is a sweet spot with most songs not overstaying their welcome — 11 tracks with none going over five minutes. But, while listening to the whole album, the songs begin to bleed together.

There’s a lack of dynamism that keeps the album sounding fresh and each song having its own identity. The identity of each song is basically a “good At the Drive-In song.” Spastic and interesting guitar part here, explosive chorus here, breakdown there, cool bass line over here, and done. The songs are all good, but most of the songs don’t come close to great.

On several listens, nothing stands out on the album save for three tracks, the first being the opening track “No Wolf Like the Present.”

“Governed by Contagions” is At the Drive-In at their best with instrumental performances featuring heavy riffs, dissonant guitar sections, punchy bass playing and a memorable chorus. Bixler-Zavala’s vocals are in prime form as he uses the full range of his manic vocal abilities to elevate the energy of the song to great heights.

The eerie “Ghost Tape No. 9” is another example of At the Drive-In tapping into what makes them special. Even though this is the only slower song on the album, there’s still a tangible intensity found in the vocals and instrumental performances. “Ghost Tape No. 9” creeps forward with a prominent bass line that carries the song while the guitars wail and moan in the background.

“Ghost Tape No. 9” is one of the distinct tracks with it being the only time the band slows things down and breaks from the fast pace aggression of the rest of the album.

Overall, “Interalia” is a solid release that truly feels like an At the Drive-In album. This isn’t an album that will kick the door down screaming “I’m back!” But it is an album that shows At the Drive-In isn’t creatively bankrupt after its 17-year absence.