At the Drive-In’s Top 10 Songs

El Paso's loudest export has returned for good, and now it's time to catch up


    Jesuit priests stalking down the mountain, the bishop sends his regards. Tumultuous bargains for a half-sacked ancestry, we paint our triggers on stone-cold eclipses. Reward! Reward! Disarm-the-pilots-in-a-colossal-bakery

    Yep, At the Drive-In have returned this week with a super good comeback album, in•ter a•li•a, and with their resurrection comes a slew of not-so-distant memories to our own halcyon days of classroom poetry, skinny jeans, and imminent screaming.

    We’re all older now, but so are they, and it’s somewhat astonishing how none of their post-hardcore anthems have left our tick-tock, sickle-cell cerebrums. It’s a hand salute to the sacrificed wisdom of riddled painters…


    Christ, there I go again. Just move along and enjoy the band’s 10 greatest songs.

    –Michael Roffman


    10. “Transatlantic Foe”

    Call it emo or post-hardcore or whatever you want, but at its heart, At the Drive-In are a punk band. Of course, no one would call them a pop-punk band, but In/Casino/Out closer “Transatlantic Foe” drifts particularly close to the late ’90s sound that many of their fans were immersed in. It wouldn’t be a look that would stick for At the Drive-In, but if anything, the song comes off like an alternate history of one of the many directions the band could have gone and how they could have found success regardless of what they chose. –Philip Cosores

    09. “Lopsided”

    While At the Drive-In’s debut, Acrobatic Tenement, offered a confused representation of what the band was at the time, their sophomore release, In/Casino/Out, solidified what the El Paso rockers needed to be for the future. With Omar Rodríguez-López dropping bass and picking up guitar, we get to hear a band that’s more self-aware and actively moving away from the post-hardcore music scene and into more progressive rock. “Lopsided”, in particular, is the tremendous leap. For further proof, know that the late Jeremy Michael Ward offered up the eerie piano key outro; mind you, he would later help create one of the genre’s most impressive latter-era albums, De-Loused in the Comatorium. Need I say more? –Phillip Roffman

    08. “Heliotrope”

    1999’s Vaya EP was a snapshot of a band at volatile crossroads. Marking the middle ground between At the Drive-In’s scrappy-yet-earnest punk rock origins and the more math-like direction they would eventually take to the hilt, it’s a record that sounds brash but focused. “Heliotrope” catches that go-between expertly. It drives with the might of many late ’90s/early ’00s post-punk bands, but it’s not short on artistic flourishes either. Cedric Bixler-Zavala barks his high-minded vocals with fierce conviction, while Rodríguez-López’s lead guitar part gives the song some added warmth and texture. No other song in the band’s catalog wraps its arms around what the band was and what it was bound to become so expertly. –Ryan Bray

    07. “Chanbara”


    Never has a song about Italian anti-personnel equipment sheering through flesh and bone in the face of independence and anarchy sounded so … inviting. The invitation comes to us in the form of Bixler-Zavala’s once easily digestible syntax, a key feature that was missing on latter performances and projects. Still, you must give credit where credit is due, and that bass in the beginning that opens the envelope to the song is a direct example of why bassist Paul Hinojos is involved in every project to ever come out of At the Drive-In. Woof. –Phillip Roffman

    06. “Proxima Centauri”

    As Ryan mentioned above, Vaya marks the middle ground of ATDI — a moment where the band’s punk roots were mixing with their new post-hardcore leanings. “Proxima Centauri” shows the beginnings of Bixler-Zavala’s experimentation with more abstract, poetic lyrics (“Under the breath, under the fall Caligula time warp/ Decadence in fleets come rain storming”), and Rodríguez-López and Jim Ward bending and destroying their guitars in the choruses creates swirling textured sounds for a beautiful, chattering Benzedrine freak-out. At the song’s heart, however, still holds strong the hammering punk energy that brought In/Casino/Out to the forefront. –Nick Freed

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