Since the breakup of At the Drive-In, fans have blogged relentlessly about which ATDI offshoot should be more acclaimed. The Mars Volta consistently receives high praise for its proggy, experimental rock, while Sparta hasn't been able to impress critics as easily with its much simpler classic-emo approach. But after two hit-and-miss full-lengths, the El Paso-based quartet finally seems ready to knock one out of the ballpark. Threes is a mature and voluminous rock record, on which songs such as the anti-Bush-themed "Taking Back Control" and "Red.Right.Return (Straight in Our Hands)" find the band graduating from its Texas tinker-punk days. The addition of ex-Engine Down/Denali guitarist Keeley Davis has had a noticeable effect on the group's now-layered and expansive sound. Really, the album only faults on its poppier moments, which seem to draw too much from generic post-punk influences. Sparta may not yet be poised to cross over into total art-rock territory, but Threes is one big step forward.


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