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#2: The Mars Volta should never be compared to Sparta. There is nothing that links these two bands besides the obvious starting spot of ATDI.
Those being said, one has to approach the CD without comparing it to either of those two bands and simply see it as a debut of a new band from El Paso. From that aspect, this CD is absolutely phenomenal. Filled with catchy hooks, grinding guitars and aggressive drumming, Sparta's first full length, Wiretap Scars, is an immensely powerful debut from a band that prides songwriting over flash and gimmicks.
Instead of trying to be deliberately artistic and overly theatrical, Sparta doesn't do either and lets the songs themselves be the carrying force for the band's power. Songs like "Collapse" are melody-laden and beautifully arranged, perfectly exploiting the dual guitars and stark, naked beauty if Jim Ward's voice. While the more aggressive tracks ("Cut your Ribbon," "Sans Cosm," and "Air") are absolutely splendid rockers, the real parts of the CD that shine are the melodic, slower ones. Songs like "Glasshouse Tarot" (named after the Glasshouse in Pomona California) and "Echodyne Harmonic" (now fully mixed after being "de-mixed" on the Austere EP), which slow down the pace, have beautiful driving beats and soft, enchanting melodies that captivate the listener like nothing else. The increadibly tight playing of the band as a unit is what keeps the music going, as Tony's superb drumming keeps the entire album on check.
Pick this one up for a fresh sound. It's not quite emo, not quite hard rock, but it's certainly one of the best albums of the year.
In terms of raw power, between the former ATDI bands, Sparta rocks harder, the Mars Volta is more pretentious yet completely different. It's easy to see where the influences from the juggernaut of At the Drive In came from. Undoubtedly, former fans and former detractors alike will all have an opinion on who is better. I have mine, but this is a review.
In terms of accessibility, there's no question Sparta is easier on the eardrums. The Mars Volta's pretentious fuzzy dub sound and outlandish recording techniques are very different from this album. Again, this isn't a positive or a negative, it just is.
Sparta weighs in, in their most brilliant moments, with tracks like "Mye" and "Cataract." Both are absolutely addicting. Their sound is actually quite eclectic. Their self described term, I believe, is "Tejano Emo", and I'm hard pressed to argue that point.
At the Drive In were revolutionary. I nearly cried the day they broke up, but I realize that there were two different visionary forces pulling this band in different directions. As it stands, both the Mars Volta and Sparta are set to change your perceptions. Buy both today. You can't possibly be disappointed.
Musically, this band seems to be a mixture of grunge rock/metal screams and crunch guitar with the (pseudo)intelligence and melodic sense of art rock. They're obviously smart and it shows in the lyrics (if only you could acutally understand what they are - more on that later).
Unfortunatley, the musical textures and melodies seem to be immature and somewhat cliched. When I lisiten to the CD, I like what I hear, but someplace in the back of my head a little voice keeps saying "where have I heard this before?" It's too familiar to be original, yet it is very appealing and a good listen. I am surprised to learn that these guys have been around (albeit in a different band) for some time as this effort sounds very much like a good solid first recording from a young band with a lot of potential.
A technical quibble - while the guitars and drums are recorded very well, the bass is, well, it's there someplace but it leaves no impression. The biggest problem by far, however, is that the vocals are so far down in the muddy middle of the mix that they are pretty much unitelligible. This is not helped by the fact that the singer has a thin and plain singing voice (which reminds me very much of the guy that sang in the band Yes a million years ago)that lacks any stand out or distinctive qualities. He is, however, capable of a hearty scream/yell that is used to great effect - or would be if the vocal mix had been done better. Tip to the band: change producers on your next album. Tip to the drummer: Don't rush! Subdivide!
Bottom line: Some good tunes, appealing texures and melodies, interesting lyrics, nicely set off by agressive crunch and grungy power. Sparta shows potentential, but they're not there yet.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Oldie but goodie. I was surprised to see this on Amazon. Had been trying to hunt down this vinyl for a while. Love the song CollapsePublished 6 days ago by James Press
Great album. I used to have the hard copy but it basically crumbled from so much handling lol. Great album all around the singing and instruments all mesh amazingly. A must buy.Published 3 months ago by George ramirez
Still a great album. The vinyl sounds amazing.Published 3 months ago by I'm A Loner Dottie, A Rebel
So glad this album got such a high quality repress. The record and sleeve are too notch. It sounds fantastic!Published 4 months ago by Jared J
One of the best albums of the early 2000's. If you do not own this CD (or At the Drive In's 'Relations of Command' )do yourself a favor and buy them, look them up on youtube,... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Clifton Gray
Bring me back to 16 years old. Love this album it has a great overall feel.Published 9 months ago by Karina
awesome wonderful, super, fantastic, grand, grander than grand, exellent, ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !Published on January 28, 2013 by cmhun487
porcelain was how i was introduced to sparta and as far as i'm concerned it's their best album however,i'm questioning that now that i've heard wiretap scars.... Read morePublished on December 1, 2009 by K. Brower
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