At the Drive-In Reviews

Read my reviews of albums by At the Drive-In:

1996: Acrobatic Tenement (8/10)

I wonder if post hardcore would have continue to thrive as a kind of music that people perform if At The Drive In had never come along. I don’t doubt that many bands were influenced by Fuguzi (as ATDI were) and the other earlier post hardcore bands but, for some reason, when I hear 21st century post hardcore I often feel like I hear the unmistakable influence of ATDI, rather than any specific earlier band in the genre.

This debut album finds them at what you might call a more “primitive” state, but the things that appeal about them are hear, at least to my ears. It’s a little less ambitious, it’s a little less well-formed, but it’s still great stuff, exactly what you’d want from the genre in my mind – punk songs distorted into songs that are too complicated for punk songs, with healthy dose of hardcore just barely visible.

Read my reviews of albums released in 1996.

1998: In/Casino/Out (8/10)

If At the Drive-In weren’t do damn indebted to Fugazi I’d be tempted to claim this as the best post hardcore record of the 1990s.

They take Fugazi’s ideas and make them more ambitious and (relatively) more polished. They are better songwriters than Fugazi, for the most part, and so the songs are catchier. They are also influenced by different things so that you get musical ideas that would never have graced a Fuguazi record (for good or ill).

But this is still very much indebted to Fugazi and that’s what keeps me from giving it higher marks.

Read my reviews of 1998 albums.

1999: “Vaya” (7/10)

For years and years I thought this was the At the Drive-In EP because I thought it was the only EP and because I never bothered to look for others. I thought it was canonical because I borrowed it from my brother and he had all their albums so it must be their only, or at least their most seminal, EP, right? So that means I’ve traditionally given it more credit than it perhaps deserves, in part because I have just never listened to any of their other EPs, so I don’t know how it actually compares with those in terms of quality. (I actually ripped it at one point so it was sandwiched next to In/Casino/Out and so these tracks all blend together.)


Many of the things you want in an At the Drive-In record are here: the screaming, the melodies, the willingness to depart both instrumentally and, especially, in terms of songwriting from hardcore conventions. But though there are a few near classic or maybe even classic tracks here, it’s also clear that this material was not their best; that the reason this EP exists is not that they couldn’t fit the material on an album but that they didn’t want to. (I don’t know if that’s actually true but it feels that way.)

It’s an easy record to enjoy if you’re a fan of the band, but it’s hardly essential.

My #2 EP of 1999 because I don’t listen to a lot of EPs. Read my reviews of music from 1999.

2000: Relationship of Command (8/10)

In 2009, I wrote this hilarious “review”:

I’m not sure whether this is better than it’s predecessor or not. It seems pretty similar to me. There are moments that work really well and others that seem awkward.

The most accessible and most successful record by the most important post hardcore band of the late ’90s is probably their best in terms of songwriting and ambition, but lacks a bit of the edge that made them exciting early on. (At least one member is on record hating the mix, FYI.)

This may not be my favourite of theirs but it’s probably their best. And, certainly, the explosion of post hardcore bands in the ’00s owes a lot to this.

Somehow my #4 album of 2000. Read my reviews of albums released in 2000.

At this point, the band broke up and half of them formed The Mars Volta.

2017: in•ter a•li•a (5?/10)

I have heard their reunion album but apparently not enough to review it. Read my reviews of music from 2017.