For me it is all about At The Drive In at the minute. Ever since it was announced in 2015 that they were to reform again I have been excited at the thought of finally getting to see them play live. This wasn’t just a “play a few gigs / didn’t we have a lovely time in the 90s” type of reunion. This brought back together Jim Ward and Cedric Bixler once again with the possibility of new recordings. Jim Ward actually pulled out before they recorded anything but it didn’t stop the rest of the band reforming nonetheless.
For those not familiar with At the Drive In, they were a Texas based punk hardcore band operating in the late 90’s. Their last album, 2000’s phenomenal Relationship of Command, shot them into the mainstream. It wasn’t long before the pressure and hype got to them and the band went their separate ways. Half of the band forming Sparta, the other half Mars Volta, a progressive rock version of ATDI.
I don’t have many regrets with regards to bands – most of the greats I have ever wanted to see live, I have managed to do so at one time or another – but ATDI would have been one of them. Famed for their incredible and incendiary live performances, the 2000 tour is still talked about in hushed tones. Mars Volta themselves were equally as good live and I was lucky enough to see them play a couple of times.
Obviously with anything new from a reformed band there is always going to be trepidation. How many times do bands come back from the dead, release new material and it is quite frankly not a patch on their former soul of the band. Who wants to ruin their legacy?
So, Trepidation Number 1 came in the form of the first new album in 16 years in*ter a*li*a. It quickly became apparent, though, from opening track “No Wolf Like Present” to such big hitters “Incurably Innocent” and “Torrentially Cutshaw” that ATDI had pulled it off. Naturally it doesn’t have the incandescent rage of its predecessor but it feels like a natural progression and it is hard to believe that so much water has gone under the bridge between the two. For me it is the perfect follow up album, full of energy, thoughtful, with touches of Mars Volta for good measure, catchy and soulful. One of the albums of the year.
Trepidation Number 2 – The live performance. So, I was finally going to get to see them live, perhaps not where I imagined (supporting Royal Blood at Leeds Arena) but for me ATDI were absolutely incredible. Everything that you wanted them to be. Bixler has lost none of his stage presence, energy or quirkiness in all this time. And he prowled the stage like a cat on heat, yelping, falling, jumping, dragging and generally just dominating the place. The songs, old and new blended in well. I loved every crazy second of their performance.
Trepidation Number 3 – Can they keep this up? So, already ATDI are bringing out a new EP. Can they keep up this level? Instigated as part of a Black Friday Record Store Day, the Diamante EP consists of three brand new songs. Opening track “Amid Ethics” has a particularly lo-fi feel about it which I like a lot. For me it has an incredibly claustrophobic feel. Everything from the low guitars at the beginning to when the choruses kick off and the whole sound is almost messy makes you feel like you are trapped and you need to fight for air. Intense. ”Despondent at High Noon” continues with that swamp like sound but with a little bit more of the brighter guitar we are used to with ATDI. It could easily have fitted on their last album. It has a nice stop/start feel and a chorus and bridge build up that is classic ATDI.
Final track “Point of Demarkation” makes use of Omar Rodriguez’ signature bass sound and is a slower paced song and actually would not be out of place on Relationship of Command. Subtle, entertaining, a perfect choice to soothe you after the two more abrasive tracks. A little bit more proggy, it’s nice to see influences from the guys’ entire career melding together now.
Rest assured that ATDI’s legacy is completely safe with this latest EP as it will not disappoint. Get this on vinyl; these tracks are designed for it. They will jump off that plastic and grab you by the throat. Just make sure you are first in the queue to get this record because it is a must-have and is going to sell out fast.
Diamante EP is out on November 24th