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Sparta
WIRETAP SCARS
(DREAMWORKS)

Stars graphics

At the Drive-In are a hard act to follow, but Sparta are doing a good job of picking up where their old band left off at the spastic end of the college-rock spectrum. On their first album, singer/guitarist Jim Ward and company turn stormy grooves and twisted melodies into surging rock catharsis. The discís first single, "Cut Your Ribbon," sets the dark, melancholy tone: the bandís explosive attack conveys plenty of angst, but they also make room for aching pop melodies and moody psychedelia. Ward doesnít have the commanding vocal presence that Cedric Bixler had in At the Drive-In, but his amiably gruff voice is a good match for Spartaís artful racket. He finds a couple of particularly good melodies to wrap it around on "Air" and "Collapse," both of which take their emotional cues from classic Sunny Day Real Estate. Star producer Jerry Finn (Blink-182, Sum 41) keeps the band focused on the choruses without reining in their experimental instincts. The lyrics are colorful at times, frustratingly abstract at others. But when everything comes together, as on the bombastic weeper "Glasshouse Tarot," Sparta have no trouble living up to their imposing legacy.

(Sparta perform this Friday, October 4, at Axis. Call 617-262-2437.)

BY SEAN RICHARDSON

Issue Date: October 3 - 10, 2002
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