Review: At the Drive-In — Vaya

Reviews / July 10, 2012

‘Vaya’ serves as a solid introduction to new At The Drive-In fans

Fearless Records

At the Drive-In’s influence is hard to deny. Along with perfecting a chaotic sound which bands would borrow from for years, the longtime standouts would employ a high energy vocal style that again would influence a legion of groups to follow. And when you combine that with a memorable live performance, you can begin to understand why fans were excited to hear of the band’s recent reunion. Part of that reunion appealed directly to the fans of vinyl, as Fearless Records launched a reissue campaign, beginning with the band’s fourth EP, 1999’s “Vaya.”

The 10” record for Vaya was first pressed exclusively for Coachella and was limited to 500 copies. In North America following the event, 3,000 copies were released on hot pink vinyl (available through several retailers); and 1,000 copies were released on bright red vinyl (available through Hot Topic). International pressings also occurred.

In retrospect, Vaya is a record that introduced At the Drive-In’s sound very well. It was a taste of what listeners were to expect from the band following the full length, “In/Casino/Out,” and it served as a bridge to the band’s next release, entitled “In Relationship of Command.” “Rascuache” opens up with some recognizable guitar work that soon explodes into a chorus that just sets the tone for the rest of the EP. Side A of the record, which includes tracks 1 through 4, explores the band’s amazing energy (“Helitrope”) and experimental structure and delivery (“Proxmia Centauri”). The sound set in the first half of the record, especially coming from Omar Rodríguez-López’s lead guitar work, can define the high energy style that fans expect from the band.

Side B begins with “Metronome Arthritis” which makes for an odd lead in until you reach the climax of the song. The final three songs on the album are slower and explore the band’s experimental side, which is in no way a bad thing. “198d” shows off some amazing delivery from singer, Cedric Bixler, as he goes from smooth somber vocal delivery to a screamed belt. Considering the lyrical content, Bixler’s style just reiterates his vocal talents.

Sound Quality: It makes sense that Vaya was pressed on a 10” record. The album clocks in at just about 20 minutes and with only 7 songs, it’s not very lengthy. Unfortunately, it still sounds like the 7 songs are squeezed onto the format. Vaya is a loud album and at the end of each side, that begins to show as the EP’s sound begins to lose quality. This is especially true on side A, which holds four songs as compared to side B, which holds only three. Overall, the quality is in no way bad, but for being such a major release for the band, it’s a shame this was not pressed on a 12”, allowing for more space on both sides of the record.

Packaging: When it comes to reissues like these, there’s not much to expect other than what has already been printed. That’s exactly what you will find with Vaya. The vinyl comes pressed on a hot pink 10” record, which looks quite good, and is housed inside a sleeve of the original artwork from the EP. Included inside is a lyric sheet along with the standard liner notes. Nothing new, yet nothing was left out.

Extras: This is where the reissue really disappoints. Not only is there no download card, a common record standard, but there are absolutely no extras to be found. Knowing At the Drive-In fans, Fearless could have made a really nice product for this release and fans would have bought it no matter what. It feels like a missed opportunity, but it’s still nice to hear it on vinyl.

Summary: Major At the Drive-In fans will no doubt already have their copy of Vaya sitting on their shelf as I type this. For new fans, this EP is a perfect introduction and an underrated classic from the band’s discography. The packaging and 10” pressing was a bit of a disappointment, but the excitement of spinning the record can quickly make you forget about that. Not to mention, the hot pink pressing really fits the cover art and overall design quite well.

Make Sure to Spin: “Rascuache” and “198d”

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Michael Escanuelas

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