When famed post-hardcore/art-rock spazz combo At the Drive-In broke up in 2001, the lines were clearly drawn. Vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (the two with afros) took off for the cosmos with The Mars Volta, while the rhythm section of bassist Paul Hinojos, drummer Tony Hajjar, and guitarist Jim Ward stuck closer to Earth with Sparta. Sure, Sparta's trio of records, Wiretap Scars (2002), Porcelain (2004), and Threes (2006) lacked the fuck-all absurdity of The Mars Volta's output, but it's unfair to categorize Sparta's best burners, like "Cut Your Ribbon" and "Hiss the Villain," as unimaginative. The group's been quiet for a while now, with Ward focusing on his alt-country side project Sleepercar, but At the Drive-In's Coachella reunion has focused eyes on all things ATDI (including the deluge of records issued by Rodriguez-Lopez), which means that Sparta's music is due for some re-evaluation. Because ATDI is nearing "classic status," that means Sparta is something like Big Audio Dynamite, a second act that gets overlooked and underestimated too often.
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