Combining emotional melodies and moving at an unpredictable rate, At the Drive-In was one of the best-kept secrets of the mid-90s. The pure energy of their live shows would put them in place as one of the most fondly remembered performers and Cedric Bixlerís nonsensical yet deeply emotional lyrics would perpetuate the band to lengths none of them expect while living in the small town of El Paso, Texas. At the Drive-in were signed to Flipside Records after playing a small gig in Los Angeles, which only had nine people in the audience. This record label would soon release what I consider would be ATDI s best full-length album.
Acrobatic Tenement is an emotional, hard-hitting story of the boys from Texas and their experiences. The top-notch lyrics and music out weigh the low quality recording and make this album brim with greatness. While In/Casino/Out took a melodic path and Relationship of Command took the heavy hitting path, Acrobatic Tenement is a pure reflection of how ATDI was in their live shows. Whether it s the screaming of Jim or Cedric you can hear the feelings pouring out in songs such as Ebroglio and Paid Vacation Time. This album basically cemented ATDI into a band that would succeed in shaping an amazing and original sound.
The first track of Acrobatic Tenement makes you want to dance. I promise you if you hear this song and don t feel like you want to dance there is something wrong with you. Itís got some incredible work musically not technically but just in the way they made a song so catchy. The only let down of this song is the lyrics which are really repetitive. Overall though Star Slight is a great opening track and a very different song from the ATDI sound of the future.
Schaffino starts off with some pretty light sounding guitar and then goes right into full force. The lyrics are yelled in this song and it makes it seem a lot heavier than the song actually is. Again lyric wise this is a bit of a let down and also musically itís just not that interesting, this is in my opinion the worst track on Acrobatic Tenement.
All of the Mars Volta fans know the story of Julio. Well this is where it started, this was Cedric s first ode to his fallen friend and is just as amazing as the Deloused album. It starts off with some great spoken word pieces and then breaks into an intense guitar sound and yelling from Cedric. This is a definite highlight lyrically with the words ďit's all a facade/and nothing really matters now/he's stranded somewhere on the mesa street exit/and sometimes I'm jealous waiting at the intersection ď. Ebroglio is a great song and one of the best off of Acrobatic Tenement and in ATDIís entire catalogue.
Initiation sounds like something off of Vaya it has that low-key singing and then the yelling for the chorus. Itís really a great song in my opinion and another of my favorites off of this album. Also it is both a musical and lyrical highlight the music is soothing when itís meant to be and intense when it is meant to be and really reflects Cedricís lyrics great. Also this song leaves us with the great quote ďyouíll know you're beautiful when you're dead ď.
Fast paced and intense this song isnít like the RoC ATDI yet is still extremely hard hitting. It sounds similar to A Devil Among the Tailors although the lyrics arenít that ingenious. This is another let down in my opinion and kind of ruins the mood Initiation and Ebroglio set.
Skips on the Record
The first time any RoC or In/Casino/Out fan hears this, their mouths are going to hit the floor. How could such a hard-hitting band create such an easy laid-back song" Still it s a great song and still holds some strength in Cedricís vocals if not in the musical part of it. The lyrics are really interesting and will leave you with some deep feelings for the incident it describes.
Paid Vacation Time
This song has the best chorus in ATDI history. Itís amazing, kind of like this song. This is my favorite track off of Acrobatic Tenement because itís amazing lyrically and musically. Plus the chorus is just orgasmic when you hear it ďand all those friends you thought you had are laughing at and not with you and all those friends you thought you knew you'd trade it all for a tank full of fuel ď Wow, hard to describe. Another cool factor about this song is it ends on a drum roll rather than beginning on one.
This is most people s favorite track off of Acrobatic Tenement and for good reason. It s a great song and really reflects what ATDI would go on to do. It has terrific intertwining guitar lines and creates a great atmosphere. It must have been great to see live back when they still played it since you can hear the emotion pouring out of Cedric when he yells ďIíve been dancing in the bathroom stalls ď Great song and a must for any ATDI fans collection.
Blue Tag starts off very slow with some soft singing and then it breaks into a fast guitar and drumbeat. We hear some talking from Cedric and then the chorus is some all out yelling. Not a bad track yet not comparable to the last 3. Itís lyrics a really good story of El Paso life and itĎs a decent vocal performance by Cedric.
Coating of Arms
We start off pretty dark lyrically and musically. Then we break into a bunch of random yelling and it sounds great (reminiscent of Star Slight just not as catchy). Then we go back to the dark type of music. Ends in a very light note though.
I donít know the lyrics for this song so I canít comment on them. But from what I think they are I really love them, along with this song, which is fantastically constructed. I think maybe it might be about someone they knew but Iím not completely sure. This is a very angry song. Cedric is yelling through the entire thing and it just is a great heavy hitting ending when we hear Cedric yell and the song ends with his voice cutting out.
Acrobatic Tenement is a fantastically constructed first album. It stretches from subtle catchy songs to all out yell fests that you can barley decipher. It is in my opinion ATDI s best release because it encompasses their raw energy from their live shows and has Cedric at his lyrical best. Instead of hiding behind big words Cedric uses a more poetic feel in this album and really shows in some of the catchier songs. I really think if you are first getting into ATDI you should buy RoC or In/Casino/Out too see if you like the band. Acrobatic Tenement can only really be appreciated by a fan of the band due to the recording quality so make sure you at least have some ATDI background before you listen to this album.