At The Drive-In's newest is an alternative album, knowingly so. At least some of its words seem inaudible and often appear to lack a clear meaning. The guitar lines unleash more corrosiveness, and a greater accompanying energetic buzz than the effects of your favourite cola. The bass and drums rock, often in a hard-hitting and quite fast style. Let's be honest: these songs will probably never unseat the likes of [insert current popstar here] from the top of any singles chart. But let us not allow such a socioeconomic misfortune to stop us from enjoying an album that is great not only on occasion but pretty consistently.
Aside from some great short extracts, the chief of which must be, "There's no wolf like the present/Prey on our history and scrap it for parts", the lyrics are generally lacking for reasons listed above. But there is clearly great work on display by all instrumentalists, and even the backing vocals are noteworthy. Everything stands out, and yet it is mostly good (at least). Therefore you might expect less of the work here to be rising its head in such a way, since none of it is massively superior to any other part besides the wordsmith's department.
Drums work together potently with their four-stringed, low-pitched counterpart, which goes in and out with simplicity but effectiveness. The singing makes it clear the vocalists (even those in the background) mean business, even if you cannot understand what to do with what they are saying - except perhaps get excited. It all blends together into an infectious brew fit for the kings of indie rock. All of this is true before we even get to the guitar parts.
The guitar playing seems quite abstract but at the same time very punky and aggressive. Crucially, it is listenable and enjoyable, something which is not always guaranteed in less commercial realms. With the guitar-wielding that also, in several different ways, recalls John Frusciante's more frantic Chili Peppers tracks and also Dave Grohl and Chris Shifflet of Foo Fighters in alternative mode.
Make no mistake: there is room for improvement besides the lyrics. For example, the avant-garde sections like the intro are interestingly different but could be a lot better. On 'Ghost Tape No. 9' it's good that they switch up the pace from other songs, but it's clear that -on this particular album - they are better at an increased tempo. Furthermore, nothing on display here quite hits the heights of 'One-Armed Scissor'. However, the band demonstrate that they are not one-song- or one-album-wonders. Rodriguez-Lopez deemed the popular, highly acclaimed album Relationship of Command (2000) to be mixed unsatisfactorily in its "plastic" final form, and he should be happier with the sound here. While one could take the opinion that the production is nothing too special -- what is wonderful is the forming of a brilliant whole. Many alternative bands have aimed for musical quality such as this but few have achieved it, especially in recent years. It's just a shame that the lyrics were often written in an indecipherable code, probably too 'intelligent' for their own good.