CD Review of Threes by Sparta

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starstarstarstarno star Label: Hollywood Records
Released: 2006
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Any summation of the past of Sparta will inevitably begin with At the Drive-In. For the uninitiated, At the Drive-In was tagged as “the next big thing” about six years ago, before they fizzled and died an uneventful death. Rock fans today may view it as a blessing. The members of At the Drive-In split and have since formed two of rock’s most notable bands: Mars Volta and Sparta.

Threes, appropriately enough, is the band’s third album and likely their most well-rounded effort yet. Melding elements of alternative, punk, hardcore, and even a dash of emo, Sparta always maintains an infectious groove, even when it would appear that the band has gotten a little too comfortable with its formula. All of the tracks are wonderfully layered to bring out the talents of all the members.

The album kicks off with “Untreatable Disease,” and that track alone serves as a pretty good litmus test for the rest of the tracks. Sparta has a knack for luring you in with a gorgeous intro and verse, then turning up the intensity for the soaring chorus. Lead vocalist Jim Ward nails the shifts in mood and tempo seamlessly, particularly on tracks like “Erase It Again” and “Translations.” “Atlas” boasts the band’s gorgeous acoustic arrangements and is the kind of song you fall asleep to on a warm summer night.

Lyrically, Sparta covers diverse ground. Making big impacts are “Unstitch Your Mouth,” about a boy who is insulted and made fun of for no reason, and “Taking Back Control,” the band’s battle cry for the nation’s youth to take control of their own direction.

The album missteps a bit on tracks like “False Start,” which is too heavy-handed for its own good, and “The Most Vicious Crime,” whose chorus becomes repetitive and outstays its welcome.

Even with such minor hiccups, Threes is a great effort that is worthy of any rock fan’s attention. The band is very accessible to just about anyone who likes their music played with actual instruments, and if a melting pot of At the Drive-In, Dredg, Coldplay, and Mars Volta sounds good to you, then by all means check out this band.

~Bill Clark