Second albums are a real bitch for any
band, and Sparta are in a less-than-enviable position: though they've made significant leaps forward as a unit, they're still attempting to outrun the demons that haunt their every move -- their past and their peers.
After striking first with Wiretap Scars, Sparta were afforded an instant leg up in the post-At The Drive-In sweepstakes, but now that the Mars Volta have stolen the critics' hearts with their heady psychedelic stew, Sparta seem a bit too retro-focused for their own good. "While Oceana Sleeps" and "Lines in the Sand" bleed beneath a sickly-hued sky, their panicky rhythms squirming out from beneath Jim Ward and Paul Hinojos's detonating guitars. Their progression from baby band to full-on anthem-spouting rock leviathans seems complete when "Breaking the Broken" leaps from the speakers, but that status is jeopardized by the presence of several same-sounding also-rans that fail to improve upon the group's bombastic template.
The seeds of something truly great are present throughout Porcelain, but promising nuggets of future-leaning rock 'n' roll like "Tensioning" and "Travel My Bloodline" are jumbled in various phases of execution, forcing the band to lean too heavily upon the somewhat stifling hardcore heritage that has served them well until now.