Sound — 8
Producers take note: Wiretap Scars is a prime example of perfect record production and mixing. Everything shines through clearly. Eveything that is meant to be interprated is gotten across. The production is so clean and crisp you could cut it with a knife. Was that a rant on the album? No, just simply stating that the sound quality here is crystal clear. As for the album, there are problems, but not enough to spoil your fun with Sparta's debut, the band formed from the ashes of At The Drive In in 2000. There were two sides to the story: the spacey, prog rock of ATDI that apparently travelled with Cedric and Omar in Mars Volta, and then there's the cruncy guitars and chugging rythms that have followed over the fence to Sparta. Singer Jim Ward never goes beyond the simple here, with moderatly slow riffs, that bathe in beautiful effects that either pierce the heart, or break it. Melancholy and bitter-sweet, this album swims in an ocean of reverb and Strokes-like mumbling at the hands of Ward. The album starts off ferocious with the cutting explosion of "Cut Your Ribbon." It's the only evidence of punk roots on the entire album, besides the punk-rules abiding soft/loud riffing of "Air." Almost screaming up blood, the rest of the album takes a break, which is very evident of the beautiful piano/guitar like "Collapse." Over an echoing guitar line and muffled, spacey lyrics, industrial-ish guitars break the chorus, with white spire distortion tearing up the end. It's a beautiful song that completely owns your ass for 4 minutes. The best here is the mysterious, very powerful "Cataract." After an electronic intro breaks way, a repeated, fuzzy guitar line holds Ward's trademark whisper-quiet lyrics, which surprise the listener when not expected with a ferocious chorus, offering an insanely catchy hook. Some more of that punk rock breaks in at the songs outro, with strummed octaves riding the song to finish. But for all of the quality tracks, there is a bit of filler. "Glasshouse Tarot" is too monotanous and hook-less to sit through, while "Assemble the Empire" starts of with an interesting guitar line, but falls flat before the chorus. But add the headbanging "Rx Coup" and the good outweighs the bad.
Lyrics — 8
Ward can write some lyrics. Problem is, most of it is rambling. Very clever use of words, and brilliant ideas, but most of these songs don't rhyme. But as Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke would agree: It's not what you say, it's how you say it. And in that case, Ward excels. His lyrics are very intriguing and mysterious, but some of the finest moments happen in "Collapse" ("His body's shut down in Bordeaux/and on the shore of Gold Coast/On the balcony I search for sleep") The bands Spanish heritage shine through on these tracks, and the band's ability to tell a short story are incredible, as on tracks like "Cataract", "Air", or "Mye" would prove. Do these lyrics paint a scene? Defenitly. Is what's going on in that scene always clear? Not all of the time.
Overall Impression — 8
Shroud in mystery, left in haunting reverb, Wiretap Scars will intrigue anyone who stumbles upon it. Not for everyone, the effects could be too much for minimalist to appreciate. But the hooks and absolutely monster guitar riffs assure it: This is one of the greatest unsung rock guitar albums ever. Soem of these songs might fail, but the roaring, haunting, killer guitar will hook you, line and sinker. A must for rock guitarist with a simple approach to there craft.