At the Drive-In: A key path of the journey of American post-hardcore

Before we had Mars Volta and Sparta, we had At the Drive-In, and they helped define post-hardcore (to the extent it could be defined)
Aftershock Festival 2018 - Day 2
Aftershock Festival 2018 - Day 2 / Tim Mosenfelder/GettyImages

At the Drive-In is (or perhaps was) an American post-hardcore band that was formed in El Paso, Texas, in 1994. The band's original lineup consisted of Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals), Omar Rodríguez-López (guitar, vocals), Jim Ward (guitar, vocals), Paul Hinojos (bass), and Tony Hajjar (drums). Their music is characterized by its intense and energetic sound, blending elements of punk rock, post-hardcore, and experimental rock, gaining prominence for their passionate live performances and unique musical style. Of course, it would also be fair to say they are a "rock and roll" band.

As in the member's other projects, they often incorporated complex rhythms, intricate guitar work, and emotionally charged lyrics into their songs. At the Drive-In was known for addressing social and political issues through its music, and its lyrics often featured abstract and introspective themes. Their breakthrough album, Relationship of Command, released in 2000, received critical acclaim and is considered one of their most influential works. It showcased their distinct sound and gained a significant following, especially for tracks like "One Armed Scissor" and "Invalid Litter Dept."

The initial breakup of At the Drive-In

In 2001, At the Drive-In announced an indefinite hiatus, citing internal tensions and creative differences within the band. Following the hiatus, members went on to form new projects such as The Mars Volta and Sparta. The Mars Volta, in particular, continued to explore experimental and progressive rock. In 2012, At the Drive-In reunited and embarked on a world tour, delighting fans with their return to the stage. They released their fourth studio album, in•ter a•li•a, (featuring Sparta's Keeley Davis) in 2017, marking their first album in 17 years.

Despite lineup changes over the years, the band's music and legacy continue to resonate with fans of the post-hardcore genre. To give some idea of their impact, Relationship of Command was ranked 83rd on Spin Magazine's 100 Greatest Albums 1985–2005, and 47th in the 50 Greatest Albums of the 21st century in Kerrang! The song "One Armed Scissor" also had circulation on MTV (back when that mattered a bit more).

Other facts about At the Drive-In

  • Following the break-up of At the Drive-In, Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López formed the project The Mars Volta, whose releases have also been critically praised and regarded by critics and peers as some of the best of the 2000s.
  • The band are also known for their eclectic live shows, at which they incorporate elements of various genres and experimental rock into their performances. On top of that, Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López formed the (apparently short-lived) side-project Antemasque in 2014.

Here's a song title that likely carries more meaning after 2020:

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