Fans of the now defunct buzz-band At The Drive-In can let out a big collective sigh of relief during the first chords of Sparta’s “Cut the Ribbon”, the opening cut on Wiretap Scars [Dreamworks]. Sparta is basically 2/5ths of ATDI, as drummer Tony Hajjar and guitarist Paul Hinojos grabbed 2 other rockers (Matt Miller on bass, and Jim Ward doing vocals/guitar/keys) and cleaned up the chalkboard-screeching blitzkrieg that was ATDI, and is now Sparta’s brainchild.
Much of the songwriting dynamic remains the same, though Ward adds a welcoming calm voice in comparison to the ATDI screamer Cedric. Ward’s floaty Perry Farrell-meets-Roger-Waters-meets-Thom-Yorke voice coats the feedback-infused guitar chops with a much needed softness. Make no mistake, this album is L-O-U-D rock, but the intricate balance of the heavy and the breezy keeps the headache level down for the more sensitive listeners.
These Texas boys sure do ride on the same rail as …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, not only in the decibel category, but also in being able to fuse verbal artistry with pounding beats. “Concrete eyes and flash bang imagery/you’re bored with home, you’re bored with me” rings through the plucky guitarwork of “Light Burns Clear”, with Ward dishing out the most sincere vocals on this must-have album.
While it’s toned-down a bit from what many are used to by At The Drive-In, Sparta’s Wiretap Scars, is a massive debut album from a band that most originally counted out.