Our top 10 At the Drive-In songs list digs deep into the music of an American band famed for its influence on the post-hardcore scene. The band was formed in 1994 by its founding members, singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala who would later form The Mars Volta and Antemasque and guitarist Jim Ward (currently a member of Sparta). At the Drive-In would soon have its first show in El Paso, Texas, in October 1994. A month later, the band hit the studio for the release of its first EP, Hell Paso (1994).
Hell Paso (1994) featured Bernie Rincon, the band’s original drummer. Sadly, Bernie passed on shortly after the EP was released. The EP’s title was inspired by El Paso, the hometown of the band members. Despite the EP only featuring only three songs, the band went on a lengthy journey across Texas, marking their first tour.
The band chose Tony Hajjar (current member at Gone is Gone) to fill in the drummer position following the demise of Bernie. With the new line-up, the band was ready for the recording of its sophomore EP. In June 1995, At the Drive-In released the EP ¡Alfaro Vive, Carajo! The band was now ready to hit the road for their second tour. Unlike the first tour where they trekked across Texas, At the Drive-In had a new Ford full-size van which they used for the second tour.
After covering thousands of miles on tour, At the Drive-In managed to have some following. Later, the band would record its debut studio album Acrobatic Tenement (1997) under Flipside Records. Acrobatic Tenement (1997) featured eleven tracks which had Cedric on the lead vocals and Jim Ward on the backing vocals and guitar. Adam Amparan featured on the guitar while Ryan Sawyer and Omar Rodríguez played the drums and bass, respectively. At the Drive-In went on tour for a hundred days sharing stages with other artists, including Mustard Plug, J Church, Cosmic Psychos, Still Life, and AFI.
The band saw an increase in its following, prompting it to release more music. A third seven-track EP under the title El Gran Orgo was released in late 1997. El Gran Orgo (1997) was praised by many for its melodic songs. The band embarked on a nationwide tour where its members interacted with other acts such as The Young Pioneers, Karp, The Criminals, and Guttermouth. At the Drive-In would later be without a record label after Flipside quit the business. This left them hopeless, only to be saved by Fearless Records.
Under Fearless Records, the band released its sophomore album In/Casino/Out (1998). Before taking a break from music recording, release, and touring, At the Drive-In went on s few shows playing alongside The Murder City Devils and Knapsack. The band would later tour Europe after a short time on the road with Jimmy Eat World. A third EP under the title Vaya was released by At the Drive-In in 1999. Again, the band hit the road for another tour, meeting up Rage Against the Machine and The Get Up Kids.
At the Drive-In later released its third studio album, Relationship of Command (2000), an influential post-hardcore album in the early 2000s. The album saw the band feature Iggy Pop on some songs. This helped the band achieve mainstream success. Most songs on the album received airplay helping the band grow its fanbase.
However, the band would encounter its biggest obstacle, which saw the band go on hiatus. After several successful shows, At the Drive-In didn’t get along well with music fans in Sydney. This was after Cedric tried to remind the fans to avoid moshing, which they didn’t stop. The band canceled its following tours citing fatigue both mentally and physically. At the Drive-In went disbanded, with Cedric taking the blame for its break up.
However, At the Drive-In reunited briefly in late 2011. During this time, the band reissued most of their songs. The band would later reunite in 2015, releasing a new studio album in·ter a·li·a (2017). Sadly, the band announced going on hiatus later in 2018. Even though At the Drive-In was not among pioneers of post-hardcore, the band helped popularize the music genre. The band has also influenced other artists, including Jarvis Cocker, Nick Hipa of As I Lay Dying, Underoath, La Dispute, and Billy Talent.
#10 – Initiation
Opening our top 10 At the Drive-In songs is the hit “Initiation.” The song is featured on the band’s debut album Acrobatic Tenement (1997). Members of the band revealed that most of the songs in the album were inspired by the life and demise of one of their friends, Julio Venegas. De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003) by The Mars Volta was also inspired by Julio Venegas. “Initiation” was the only song from Acrobatic Tenement (1997) to feature on the band’s compilation album This Station is Non-Operational (2005).
#9 – Hourglass
“Hourglass” is a three-minute song from the band’s sophomore album In/Casino/Out (1998). Unlike the band’s debut album, which was released under Flipside Records, In/Casino/Out (1998) was released under Fearless Records. “Hourglass” marked Jim Ward’s debut on the lead vocals role for At the Drive-In.
#8 – Extracurricular
Five months before the release of the band’s third studio album Relationship of Command (2000), At the Drive-In released a split EP together with Czech band Sunshine. Despite only releasing two songs on the EP, At the Drive-In remained the dominant act helping anchor Sunshine / At the Drive-In (2000). “Extracurricular” is one of the musical gems At the Drive-In released on this spit EP. The song was later featured on the band’s third studio album Relationship of Command (2000).
#7 – A Devil Among the Tailors
“A Devil Among the Tailors” is yet another musical gem from the band’s sophomore album, In/Casino/Out (1998). The song feels a little energetic compared to most releases from the band’s debut album Acrobatic Tenement (1997). Amazingly, In/Casino/Out (1998) reached number one on the Billboard Vinyl Albums, fourteen years after its release.
#6 – Continuum
Number six on our top 10 At the Drive-In songs is the hit “Continuum.” The song is featured on the band’s most recent album in·ter a·li·a (2017). in·ter a·li·a (2017) came seventeen years after the band’s last album release. “Continuum” starts with the lyrics I’ll drop a dime on you first, which alludes to informing someone, especially the authorities, about unlawful activities done by someone. Vocalist Cedric revealed that the song alludes to being finally able to speak out of sexual abuse.
#5 – Napoleon Solo
Without a doubt, In/Casino/Out (1998) is one of the best emo/post-hardcore albums of all time. One of the most reputable songs from the album is our number five hit “Napoleon Solo.” The song was inspired by the sudden demise of two friends to band members who passed on in a car accident. It was sad for the band having its members receive the news shortly before jumping on the stage for a show in New Orleans. The title to the song was obtained from the 1960s spy fiction TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
#4 – Incurably Innocent
“Incurable Innocent” is yet another hit song from the band’s most recent album in·ter a·li·a (2017). Like “Continuum,” this feverish song is about sexual abuse and obtaining the courage to speak about it publicly.
#3 – Invalid Litter Dept.
Relationship of Command (2000) is by far one of the most popular albums by At the Drive-In. The album is home to our number three song on the top 10 At the Drive-In songs, “Invalid Litter Dept.” The song is about Mexican women who worked at Maquiladoras receiving peanut wages, raped, and later found dead. Not only were most of the workers female, but many of them were underage. Some of them were as young as thirteen years old, working ten hours a day for six days a week. “Invalid Litter Dept.” peaked at number fifty on the UK Singles Chart.
#2 – Hostage Stamps
Even though in·ter a·li·a (2017) failed to feature the band’s founding member Jim Ward, songs on the album were still positively received. One of the most noticeable works from the album is the hit “Hostage Stamps.” The song video shows robotic figures holding a man in captivity. It is the energy depicted in this song that makes it quite a hit.
#1 – One Armed Scissor
Number one on the top 10 At the Drive-In songs is the post-hardcore gem “One Armed Scissor.” The song is featured on the band’s third studio album, Relationship of Command (2000). At the Drive-In saw the song become their most recognized song having it played on top radio stations. “One Armed Scissor” alludes to the band’s tours told by a character who visualizes the members’ hardships on the road. The song rose to number twenty-six on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. It also peaked at number sixty-four on the UK Singles Chart.
Photo: Shane Hirschman from Hollywood, CA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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