At The Drive-In - Reissues (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

At The Drive-In

Reissues (2004)


For all three of you reading this that still don't already know, At The Drive-In was easily one of the most important underground rock bands of the 1990s. Their angular, aggressive, punk-influenced indie rock was one of the most original things being done at the time of their existence, and their importance would be validated by the scope of their influence both during their latter years and after their demise (or hiatus, however you see it). It's a shame the band broke up - sorry again, "went on a hiatus" - as they not only hit the pinnacle of their impressive catalog, but had finally started to taste the outer fringes of the mainstream early this decade. All good things must come to an end, I suppose, or maybe in this case, a vaguely confusing mess void of clear endings. Perhaps a quick buck, perhaps a PSA, Fearless re-released a slew of their albums, and here's a look at all four:

Relationship Of Command

As an album: I'm still blown away every time I grace my ears with this album. Any time I feel like perhaps creating a wind tunnel through my brain, I put this on, At The Drive-In's last effort. The lyrics bleed with cryptic meaning or lack thereof, indulging the listener with schizophrenic moods and old-folk spat prophecies. "Sleepwalk Capsules" is also still one of my all-time favorite songs, for its immediate, hobo-like tantrum, dual vocal yells, and simply - or should I say, complex - aggressive mood, interrupted by a party thrown by Lazarus himself. There are so many other songs I could describe that would waste both our time, so suffice to say, you should already own this album.

Read original review here.

As a reissue: By far and away, this is one of the only reissues that makes sense here. Its original label backing, the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal imprint, is no longer, and the album's been out of print for over a year, so it made sense for Fearless to pick up the slack. The art on the CD itself features a nice alternative to the original, and of course, the Fearless logo replaces the card-hand Grand Royal one. Most importantly are the inclusion of two bonus tracks: "Extracurricular" (pun likely unintentional) and "Catacombs," which come from the Relationship... sessions. In a parallel universe, this would've been the midpoint style between in/CASINO/OUT and Relationship..., because surprisingly, it doesn't hold a strong connection soundwise with the Vaya EP. Acrobatic Tenement-like shades of rawness are flashed like halogen lights in both songs, with the screeching guitarwork and Bixler's gravelly yell at the forefront in "Extracurricular," and eerie, crescending/decrescending chord movement in "Catacombs." It's an utterly strange style even for the band themselves. The songs' inclusions are nice additions, but honestly don't come close to touching any other track on the album. Still, hardcore fans will likely appreciate them.


As an album: The major turning point for the band as I see it, as they started to strip their raw-punk hides in favor of more (or less) structured rock yet still demolished borders and boundaries, though certainly continuing to both show signs of their roots and defy conventions; "Transatlantic Foe" is perhaps the band's most upbeat song of their careers, and it closed this album. At the same time, the band could still paint with haunting textures and insidious emotion, as in "Napoleon Solo." Another great effort.

Read original review here.

As a reissue: Was this at all necessary? Isn't this still in print? If so, what is the purpose of this? NOTHING IS DIFFERENT. Okay, so the UPC is a little smaller and the label updated their logo on the bottom right corner of the back. Other than that, this is the same album - duplicate sound quality, duplicate artwork. An unnecessary clone of an album that can't be justified by the quality of the original itself.


As an album: I was never as big on Vaya as most people, but the EP is definitely another example of the band's progression, and features seven very-different sounding songs that somehow still keeps a more-than-sufficient cohesion. "Proxima Centauri" and "Heliotrope" are my favorite tracks, as they both exhibit a jumpy tempo and maniacal, meaningless yells and pulsating drums. Though not as high on a favoritism list as others would place it, a really enjoyable EP for myself nonetheless.

Read original review here.

As a reissue: See in/CASINO/OUT description.

Acrobatic Tenement

As an album: ATDI's first full-length effort, and probably their worst overall - which essentially still means: this is a pretty good disc. Much looser and less intense than future efforts, they took hold of a cautious optimism and had just begun thwarting audiences with incomprehensible nonsense for lyrics - a rather beautiful collaboration. The sloppy percussion, frenetic bass lines and manic energy of "Schaffino" was a perfect example of the band's style at the time. Their early work here is perhaps more punk-influenced (crossed with their post-punk sensibility, of course) than most anything else the band has done (save for the Alfero Vive Carejo! EP, or Hell Paso), and is a more-than-competent example of a great band's beginnings.

Read original review here.

As a reissue: This is basically a re-release of a re-release of a re-release, or something, although this was supposedly out of print. The design of the liner notes is fairly different from Revolver's 2000 re-release of the 1996 Flipside original release, although Fearless may have already had the rights to this a few years ago. Regardless - the new version chooses appropriate black and red backgrounds for the two-page liner notes, and completely blacks the cover behind the red font; the original had a white portion on its right side. So at least with this release there are enough modest changes to shrug your shoulders casually at; nothing to trigger another buy of the same album, but at least an effort was made.

Artwork avatar collaboration originally done by myself, "reissued" by P Fresh.