At the Drive-In's work always seemed to be heading in a couple of different directions, so few were surprised when the group's members did the same. Today the trio of Drivers who wound up in Sparta -- drummer Tony Hajjar, guitarist Paul Hinojos and vocalist/guitarist Jim Ward -- represent the accessible yin to the more challenging yang that former mates Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez bring to their latest project, the Mars Volta. As evidence, open your ears to Porcelain, issued this past summer on the Geffen imprint. Throughout the album, the Spartans, including bassist Matt Miller, lend an arena-ready mentality to tunes such as "Hiss the Villain" and "Le Cerca," which are built upon Edge-y riffs and Ward's impassioned wailing. Still, when Ward belts out the line "There's no compromise" during "Guns of Memorial Park," he comes across as sincere, and why not? In contrast to bands that water down their sound for financial reasons, Sparta appears to have naturally commercial instincts. Although At the Drive-In aficionados may find the results limiting, less demanding listeners will probably be pleased. In this divorce, both sides seem happier.


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