REVIEW: At The Drive In – “Governed By Contagions”
by Chad Jewett
The guitars still twine around in melodies that are modal and catchy despite themselves. The vocals are staccato and sharp; the words still seem chosen for their rhythmic punch first and their narrative transparency second. The rhythm section still finds ways to volley forward when necessary and to curl and swing when possible. “Governed By Contagions”, the new single by the newly reunited Texas post-hardcore legends At The Drive In has all the brainy attack and hi-definition intensity that made 2000’s Relationship of Command a first-ballot art punk hall-of-famer. That needling sing-along of “That’s the way the guillotine claps”? One can’t help but hear echoes of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Iggy Pop hamming his way through shouts of “Manuscript replica!” on “Rolodex Propaganda”. The way the song’s chorus manages to be both direct and elliptical? Look no further than “Pattern Against User”.
To some extent you can hear the song as a surprising bit of reassurance from a band that previously had zero interest in reassuring anyone: At The Drive In knows how to be At The Drive In. There’s even a moment, in the song’s Fugazi-esque bridge, where you get the sense that the quintet also spent time rediscovering what helped them figure out how to be At The Drive In. There are echoes of late-80s Dischord, Joy Division, The Fall all over the song. Yet what makes “Governed By Contagions” most interesting are the glimpses of new ideas. Most intriguing is the call-and-response of the song’s third verse (“LIFE! / Is not the answer / CRY! / Will you assimilate?”), a genuinely new version of the vocal back-and-fourth that once powered “One Armed Scissor”. It’s here that At The Drive-In excites most, and thus it’s here that we recognize them most.