There’s no correct or exact way to respond to the resurrection of a bygone band – especially if that band exuded a grand gesture in its, supposedly, final moments. From Alexisonfire to LCD Soundsystem, Refused to Jawbreaker, there’s either an unshakable excitement at getting to hear these songs again or a disappointment that lingers in the decision to revive something that completed its cycle and concluded on a high note. No strangers to this divisive reaction are At the Drive-In, who broke over a decade of silence in 2012 with a world tour that was received less than favourably by many long-time fans. Over time, the circumstances surrounding said tour – the passing of guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’ mother, the reluctance of guitarist/vocalist Jim Ward to participate – would present themselves. This, however, was not enough to quiet the cynicism surrounding their second attempt at operationality – especially when it was revealed that Ward would not be involved.
The reality is that the surviving members of the band – as well as Ward’s replacement, Sparta alum Keeley Davis – have had to work tooth-and-nail for the validity of calling themselves At the Drive-In again. It was one thing to finally get critical acclaim on their side for their 2016 world tour, but following that momentum with a studio album of brand-new songs was a different matter entirely. This brings us to in • ter a • li • a, and it’s here that a disclaimer needs to go up. If you’ve been unmoved in your negative position on the rebirth of this band, this won’t magically change that. As has been made clear, people will take it how they will. Then again, in • ter a • li • a doesn’t feel like an album that is trying to prove anything to anyone but the band itself – a focused effort to bring life and validity to whatever unfinished business it may have.
On that front, in • ter a • li • a feels like a success. It’s an album that sets about its business of recapturing the band’s initial urgency and defiant approach to post-hardcore’s genre semantics, yet also acknowledges the full spectrum of music the individuals of the group have worked on in the 17 years that separate its release from the turn-of-the-century classic Relationship of Command. Through cuts like the blistering opener ‘No Wolf Like the Present’ and the thunderous ‘Incurably Innocent’, one is instantly reminded of what made the band such a unique and exciting prospect to begin with – the bleeting belligerence of vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Tony Hajjar’s dizzying drum fills, the swerves and shifts delivered at breakneck pace. By the same token, tracks like ‘Call Broken Arrow’ and the eerie ‘Ghost-Tape No. 9’ recall the band’s darker, slower side to great effect. As an exploration of the key dynamic traits of At the Drive-In, in • ter a • li • a presents itself as a logical conclusion.
Each passing year will bring just as many break-ups as it will reunions like these. Bands come and go. Some last, some don’t, and some just want a second chance. If you’re willing to give that chance to a band like At the Drive-In, in • ter a • li • a will reward you greatly.
in • ter a • li • a is due for release on Friday, 5th May. Listen here. At The Drive In will return to Australia in September for a run of shows.