At The Drive-In, In-Casino-Out
"In a small ghost town, there's a little arcade/ Where the poltergeists play their video games/ At the top of the roof he says/Game over," wails Cedric Bixler in "Hulahoop Wounds," one of the rawest, hardest tracks on At the Drive In's not-exactly-laid-back third album. That sense of desolation fuels In-Casino-Out, which tackles the entropy the band feels encroaching upon them in essentially two ways: with hugely ambitious word puzzles that make more emotional sense in the air than logical sense on the page ("Lending aneurysm satisfaction in the fruitless gaze of your Mona Lisa lazy smile," Bixler earnestly croons on "Transatlantic Foe"— scans weird if not obtuse, hits like soap-filled sock), and by yelling and playing themselves raw — see the chorus of "Chanbara," or the louder parts of the swinging "Pickpocket." The latter, though, also shows off the band's palate, always wider than most of its screamo ilk — the drumming and main guitar riff feel as much like jazz as punk, recalling the careening splendor of late Richard Hell and the Voidoids guitarist Robert Quine at his most unhinged. Plus, the chorus ("In this alabaster cold/ In this alabaster cold") is catchy as a mofo.