Monday, January 09, 2006


Sparta - Porcelain - Geffen Records

Sparta was spawned after the demise of now legendary rock outfit At The Drive In. It's that other ATDI band thats not The Mars Volta. Theres a good chance you've heard of them, but weather or not you've actually listened to the group is a toss-up.

Im approaching this review from an un-biased standpoint. I am well aware that this was released via Geffen records, and I know the band's lineage, however I am not going to hold them to unreasonable expectations or dismiss them as sell-outs. The following is an honest review based upon my opinion of this album in isolation from other factors surrounding it.

Porcelain opens up with "Guns Of Memorial Park" which pretty much sets the tempo for the rest of the record. Its a mid paced tune with wailing guitars, solid vocals, and a unique drumming style. All the songs on this album are driven heavily by the guitars which I actually like. While the singer doesn't stray too far out of his comfortable vocal range, He does a good job to keep every song sounding different.

At times this album is very optimistic, and at others is can remind you that there is a darker side to everything. This duplicity is a nice feature, which is sometimes complimented by, of all things, the drummer. The uplifiting tunes on this record are accented by bright drumming complete with shimmering hi-hat and cymbal work. While the more dismal tracks find an almost "jungle-like" drum groove to them. This is a main selling point of the "Sparta sound" to me.

Among the stand-out tracks are the lazy "Lines In the Sand" that shows the band's ability to utilize dynamics very effectively. The tune builds up to the last chorus, where it peaks and gently fades off into oblivion. "End Moraine" is probably the most angry, passionate song on the album, where the the line "Revisionist History" is belted with unquestioned passion. My favorite track, by far, on the album is the closer "Splinters" The guitar melody is just so catchy and invigorating that I can't help but be drawn to it. It is a very energetic tune, perhaps more lively than the rest of the album.

I really enjoy the introspective lyrics on the album. They are not plainly worded, but not so cryptic that you need a decoder ring to decypher them. Not to mention he has a warm voice that is almost too easily to listen to.

Production on the record is stellar. The producer gave the guitars a slightly organic feel, and didnt polish them too much. The drum mix is great, with a very earthy feel to it as well. When put together this makes the album almost seem as if it was recorded live with just vocal overdubs.

Bottom line is that this is a very well thought out album from a band that writes well thought out songs. Sparta is a melodic - rock outfit that should not be defined by what the members have done in the past, but by what they are doing right now. And I think they are doing a pretty dang good job!



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