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Much of in•ter a•li•a comes off like a band making a concerted effort to cast off accusations of bloat and indulgence in their former projects, typically by keeping things brief and uptempo, a textbook example of an aging group trying to prove they can still rock out just as fiercely as the generation that supplanted them. This works intermittently but definitely does work.

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Album Review: AT THE DRIVE-IN in•ter a•li•a

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At the Drive-In are the classic band that broke up right as they were on the cusp of stardom. Fresh off a third-album-is-the-charm production boost by noted metal/hardcore producer Ross Robinson, 2000's Relationship of Command seemed at the time like the post-hardcore genre's belated arrival, bombastic yet technical, melodic and uncompromising, emotional but not emo, the album garnered the band a fair amount of percolating mainstream, including appearances on several late night talk shows and an almost unanimous public love affair with lead single "One Armed Scissor".

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Ah, but the age old artistic differences often rear their head at precisely the moment where lies the greatest leverage to keep a band together – for financial reasons, if nothing else – and mere months after Relationship of Command hit record stores the band was no more. Singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López formed Mars Volta to vent the prog rock inclinations that had begun creeping into At the Drive-In's sound, with the other three members splitting off to form SpartaSparta released three albums in the early-to-mid 2000's to decreasing public interest, while Mars Volta – rapturously received early on – never really fell off the public radar, but as time wore on their increasingly obtuse efforts became known as much for their punchline-worthy stabs at pretension as for the quality of the music itself. So naturally it was only a matter of time before the members settled their beef and take another go at At the Drive-In, and after a few years of sold-out touring we have finally have a new record in place.

Much of in•ter a•li•a comes off like a band making a concerted effort to cast off accusations of bloat and indulgence in their former projects, typically by keeping things brief and uptempo, a textbook example of an aging group trying to prove they can still rock out just as fiercely as the generation that supplanted them. This works intermittently but definitely does work. Expertly culled lead off singles "Incurably Innocent", "Governed by Contagions" and "Hostage Stamps" all pulse along at near-breakneck tempos, where, on the latter in particular, new guitarist Keeley Davis ably complements longtime axeman Omar Rodríguez-López's melodic post-hardcore insouciance (Davis replaces his former leader in Sparta, Jim Ward).

"Incurably Innocent" is never quite as instant-classic engaging as At the Drive-In's best known single, "One Armed Scissor", but it's up there with other Relationship of Command highlights like "Quarantined" and "Arcarsenal". Beyond those first three singles, though, there are a wealth of new would-be classics on deck: "Continuum"suffers only from Bixler-Zavala's spoken-slash-barked delivery during the verses, which recall circa millennia criticisms of the frontman as a bit too on the nose in comparison with Rage Against the Machine's Zach de la Rocha; "Tilting at the Univendor" and "Pendulum In a Peasant Dress" are fairly predictable from a songwriting perspective, but seethe with an ageless vitality that largely compensates for their lack of inventiveness; and album opener "No Wolf Like the Present" puts the hardcore back into the post-hardcore quintet's sound, a simple-yet-effective reach back to the sound on early efforts In/Casino/Out and the Vaya EP.

The focus on relentlessly peppy tempos and air raid riffs gives the album a certain lack of multidimension, but at a curt 41 minutes brevity alone largely comes to the rescue. in•ter a•li•a is ultimately too slight and monochromatic to fit neatly alongside the greatness of Relationship of Command, but as a comeback effort it strips away the indulgence of Mars Volta (and absolutely everything Omar Rodríguez-López has done outside these two projects) without devolving into deconstruction. But it's the fact that it works just as well devoid of any context that in•ter a•li•a is perhaps best appreciated, if not wholly revered.

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Score: 8/10

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