Sparta Porcelain

[Geffen; 2004]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: rock ‘n roll
Others: Pearl Jam, Mars Volta, At The Drive-In

I'm not quite sure whether to praise or condemn Sparta for its musical direction. While it continues to discern itself against the remains of its previous rock 'n roll outfit At The Drive-In, Sparta has spontaneously detached itself far beyond recognition. I have to agree that its new sound does have its succumbing catchiness, but it flirts too intimately with bubblegum rock 'n roll genres that undermine and weaken the group's strength. 2002's Wiretap Scars was definitely a hasty departure from ATDI's explosive musical formula, but Porcelain, Sparta's newest collection of rock anthems, clearly reverts back to its original roots entirely. And this leads to a plethora of conclusions about the stability of the record as a recommended venture.

There are several radio-friendly tracks on Porcelain. In fact, most of the record sounds remarkably linear, raising many questions regarding the band's, dare I say, authenticity. It is truly difficult to reestablish yourself after ejecting from a truly exceptional outfit, but the ATDI members of Sparta have shown no respect and gratitude to its forgotten sounds. Songs like "La Cerca" and the album opener "Guns of Memorial Park" provide a minute glimpse to the chaotic sound of ATDI but never fully emerge as resembling entities of it. Furthermore, many of the tracks on the record appear to lack any authenticity at all, creating a muddled listening experience. While Mars Volta distinguished its high-volume concept and freak-out-the-neighbors formula with its apocalyptic wails and catastrophic soundscapes, Sparta has developed a middle-of-the-road rock entity, seldom swaying away from its new and unimproved sound structure.

The failure of Porcelain will definitely not reduce the bands' acceptance as mainstream rock icons, but its musical direction may jeopardize Sparta's recognition as innovative musicians. In fact, if failure is purely judged on the number of copies the album will sell, Sparta's career may become another chapter of rock 'n roll success. Unfortunately, it is important to acknowledge your roots; and for Sparta to avoid any unwelcome negativity, a trip down memory lane should rekindle the band members' days of musical glory in the future. As for Porcelain, we'll call it an 'experimental' journey, hopefully.

1. Guns of Memorial Park
2. Hiss The Villain
3. While Oceana Sleeps
4. La Cerca
5. Breaking The Broken
6. Lines in Sand
7. End Moraine
8. Death in the Family
9. Syncope
10. Tensioning
11. Travel by Bloodline
12. POME
13. From Now to Never
14. Splinters