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The Mars Volta - Scab Dates (Cover Artwork)

The Mars Volta

The Mars Volta: Scab DatesScab Dates (2005)
Universal Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

The Mars Volta are undoubtedly one of the most polarizing bands in music today. The Frances the Mute review proved that and then some. Middle ground for an act like this doesn't exist, and people have no problems voicing their often baseless opinions about how pretentious the band is. We've heard it.
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The Mars Volta are undoubtedly one of the most polarizing bands in music today. The Frances the Mute review proved that and then some. Middle ground for an act like this doesn't exist, and people have no problems voicing their often baseless opinions about how pretentious the band is. We've heard it all before, save it. Regardless of other people's opinions, I remain a fan of the band's recorded output, but I've never had a chance to catch them in a live setting. Enter Scab Dates, problem solved.

From everyone I've talked to about seeing the Mars Volta live, there's been one consensus; it was all about the atmosphere. The Mars Volta don't adhere to the live guidelines that 99% of bands follow when they tour; as with most things, it has to be done their own way. In this case, it means not playing their songs at all how they appear on record, instead opting for numerous extended improvisational instrumental passages, or just long periods of ambience in between song sections. While I'd imagine this to be rather captivating live, a lot of the ambience leaves something to be desired on record.

The album essentially breaks down into four songs, everything else being completely improvised, as a way to weave in and out between songs without ever knowing they're changing. So in effect, what you have is about 70 minutes of music, without any individual "songs" as you'd find on an album being played. There's bits and pieces of "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" and "Cicatriz ESP" among others, but what's truly impressive is these live pieces were collected at various points between 2003 and 2005. But there's just no way you'd ever be able to tell. Everything is so seamless, and Cedric's voice is just on point in every single instance, it's a pretty remarkable thing to think about. The spacey vibes are brought out as much by his vocals as is Omar Rodriguez's penchant for extremely soulful guitar solos, whether playing at a blistering pace, as in the middle of "Cicatriz," or a more drawn out mellow jam like "Cicatriz Part 3."

With a record like this, you really do have to be in the right mood. Some ambient lighting, a relaxed atmosphere, and a comfortable spot, with this album on, everything just melts away. You truly do become enveloped in the extremely intricate arrangements of the Mars Voltas music, from the improvisational free jazz to Latin rhythms and string bending guitar solos, all under the off the wall howling of Cedric Bixler, it's all there to simply take in. The individual tracks don't matter any more with this album than they would live, and I think that very well may turn a lot of people off, moreso than some of the extended ambient passages that flow in and out of the music.

I won't lie, this isn't for everyone. In fact, it's much less accessible than anything the band has ever recorded, but when that feeling is just right, and their live experience really does sink in, nothing can touch it.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Mars Volta - Frances The MuteThe Mars Volta - De-Loused In The ComatoriumThe Mars Volta - Bedlam in GoliathThe Mars Volta - AmputechtureThe Mars Volta - OctahedronAt The Drive-In - Relationship Of CommandThe Mars Volta - LiveToken Entry - Jaybird / Weight of the WorldAssholeparade - EmbersDeath Before Dishonor - Count Me In

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (April 4, 2006)

Screw all the haters who think they know thier music but hasnt ever heard of at the drive in

Anonymous (April 4, 2006)

Screw all the haters who think they know thier music but hasnt ever heard of at the drive in

Anonymous (February 8, 2006)

Great band, but I can see why some people wouldn't like it.

Anonymous (February 6, 2006)

whays wrong with you kids, whether or not they are your style they are still amazing. its not their fault that they have passion and you guys have impatience. they may be different from what you all are use to but thats no ones fault. some needed to take it a little too far anyways. bands are starting to sound way too alike and less unique. in the end the mars volta is still a very good band.

pabstboy (February 4, 2006)

I still think Mars Volta and Sparta are terrible. Then again I'm getting older and more sour.

Anonymous (February 4, 2006)

"I guarantee nobody posting on this message board can come REMOTELY close to this cat's drummin prowess."

What the... you called him a cat?

I mean, just.... seriously, a cat?

mathrocker (February 3, 2006)

Man, this is some funny shit. If any of you could actually play a god damned instrument, you would respect this band solely based on their instrumentation. I guarantee nobody posting on this message board can come REMOTELY close to this cat's drummin prowess. anything people can't pull off themselves is labeled as pretentious in this laughingstock of a punk community. go to fucking college or read a book or do something besides bitch and moan on a messageboard about how you wish talented individuals would dumb down their music for you.

SlackMFr (February 2, 2006)

Just because this band, or any band, can play difficult music, doesn't mean it's better to listen to or make it even good (which in this case, it isn't).

Anonymous (February 2, 2006)

"NOT PUNK NOT PUNK NOT PUNK WRONG SITE WRONG SITE WRONG SITE When will you morons learn never will you learn forever being stupid forever bad music will control you."

NOT ENGLISH NOT ENGLISH NOT ENGLISH BAD GRAMMAR BAD GRAMMAR BAD GRAMMAR When will you moron learn forever being stupid forever will the ability to speak English evade you.

Uch. Please, just go away.

Anonymous (February 2, 2006)

Score's for Pink Floyd, Fugazi, and any (cerebral) music that can provoke strange emotions.

-Not-To-Regret

Anonymous (February 2, 2006)

NOT PUNK NOT PUNK NOT PUNK WRONG SITE WRONG SITE WRONG SITE When will you morons learn never will you learn forever being stupid forever bad music will control you.

Godfather (February 2, 2006)

a half star for this band is being generous

heartfailure (February 2, 2006)

it would have made sense if Cedric broke up one of the best bands ever formed to progress onto something better.

but no.

Anonymous (February 2, 2006)

Built to Spill owns this garbage.

-Chinatown

FuckYouOiOiOi (February 1, 2006)

i like listening to music i actually like when i'm stoned.

Anonymous (February 1, 2006)

"Hmmmm....what most people only find listenable while being stoned I find to be some of my favorite stuff. Is it normal for a guy who doesn't drink or smoke to love Stoner Rock, weird experimental noise and other related genres (and no I'm not talking about MV)?"

Not at all. Unless the music sucks in the first place, like Black Sabbath.

-Will

Anonymous (February 1, 2006)

Eh, I'm an edgeman these days, but there's such a thing as being young and stupid. Anyone who's been straight edge all their life is cool, though. I find a lot of them to be secluded suburban assholes who end up binging in college, though.

-Will

Anonymous (February 1, 2006)

I didn't think it was posible but reading what people think of this band even more boring than sitting through a 30 min. song.

Anonymous (February 1, 2006)

I like this band sometimes. They're obviously very talented individuals but they just over do it sometimes.

Anonymous (February 1, 2006)

How can anyone like TMV? dam hippies

BrandonSideleau (February 1, 2006)

Hmmmm....what most people only find listenable while being stoned I find to be some of my favorite stuff. Is it normal for a guy who doesn't drink or smoke to love Stoner Rock, weird experimental noise and other related genres (and no I'm not talking about MV)?

Anonymous (February 1, 2006)

does any one else like biffy clyro as much as i do?

the_other_scott (February 1, 2006)

will i always figured you were straight edge...not in the smash some faces in kind of way, but in the like peaceful, vegan type way.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

"With a record like this, you really do have to be in the right mood. Some ambient lighting, a relaxed atmosphere, and a comfortable spot, with this album on, everything just melts away."

You're forgetting the "after smoking some bud" part. I dunno. It definitely made Black Sabbath listenable. Also helped with Hawkwind, but they stand on their own.

-Will

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

Dear Cedric, Omar, and the rest of the Volta.

I like your music and everything, but 42 minutes for an already 12 minute song is a little extreme. Maybe a little less ambient noise? You're even starting to lose the kids who like drawn out music. Just a suggestion.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

"First 4 tracks from "Deloused..." are awesome... everything else they've attempted has sucked huge donkey dong.
...just my opinion."

That's exactly where I stand too, although I think Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt is a pretty cool song too. Basically, those are the songs where they got the mix of proper rocking out with prog tendencies just right. Then, Cedric starts singing about how "Trackmarked amoeba lands craft", and the songs spiral off up into their own self-indulgent backsides.

I never even bothered with Frances The Mute, because I heard The Widow and thought "That song is why I hate Pink Floyd".

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

This band, and any band related to this band are way overrated. Plus they suck to boot. ATDI wasn't that good people, deal with it!

BrandonSideleau (January 31, 2006)

well i really liked At The Drive In.....so if this is anything similar to that then im sure ill dig it a little

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

brandon. download it, you dont seem like the kind of guy tht would be into this

BrandonSideleau (January 31, 2006)

Henry Rollins has been commenting on how much he likes this live album.......I guess I'll have to check it out.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

i've never seen the phrases "noodling" and "wankery" used more frequently when describing a band's sound.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

the only time I saw this band i was trippping on mushrooms. Needless to say it was incredible.

branden (January 31, 2006)

pretty sweet band

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

im on the middle ground with this band.

some songs are cool, some are boring.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

For an individual with such an immence vocabulary containing "donkey dong", I guess this album would suck.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

First 4 tracks from "Deloused..." are awesome... everything else they've attempted has sucked huge donkey dong.
...just my opinion.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

this is like 2 live albums in one... if you had this on an LP and played it at 78 rpm, it'd sound like the locust

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

Someone told me there's like, a half an hour long version of cicatriz or something on this.

I shuddered at the thought - a song ruined by being needlessly extended through wankery, extended even more? Yuck.

If I wanted long, drawn out, and ultimately uninteresting noodling, I'd go to some hipster jazz café or something. At least I'd be able to get coffee there.

Dante3000 (January 31, 2006)

Alright I don't dislike these guys because they're "pretentious". I've never heard them talk, so they could be all inspired by coco puffs and old Monkee's Albums (course maybe that's pretentious to some).
My issue is that the short songs (that one that got radio play off Frances) don't really do it for me and the longer ones tend to lose me at about the four hunderedth noodely guitar part.
There is no doubt they're talented but really why go to a live show (or buy their CD) if they don't play songs off the CD? That just seems odd. 70 minutes of ambience is cool, but I could get that in a room with black lights, a smoke machine and some tribal music playing. If I pay to see a band I'd like to hear the songs off their albums that I love (see: Lifetime).
On another note I'd like to venture into that forbidden "is this punk" territory. Like I've said they're great musicians but what does this have to do with punk? If I remember weren't bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols basically formed to fight this kind of music? Eh, whatever I didn't complain about the Dead Prez review, so maybe I should close it.
Still, competent review of a band I guess I don't "get".
-Dante

mcgregor107 (January 31, 2006)

who's gpt better prog rock RIGHT NOW:
circa survive or the volta?

i'd say circa.. anthony green's vocals.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

this band is sheer masturbation. all they are is pretentious prog-rock that gets marketed to kids who don't normally listen to prog-rock so they think they're hearing something new and amazing. this is mindless wanking.

Jesse (January 31, 2006)

Anchors -

You should check out their Live EP. It's from a European tour.

I must say, I got bored with this band becaue I overplayed the first album, but I've been liking the newer album better and better.

Live, it really is something to behold. I mean, yeah, there is a bunch of improvisation and drawing out of songs, but it's SOLID. A great batch of musicians, and Cedric even improvises singing and lyrics.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

Great band. I have seen them 2 times so far and hopefully they will be around again soon.

-Ninja

ghostmonkey (January 31, 2006)

The Mars Volta totally suck live. 2 hours, about 5 songs. its just musical wanking.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

As much as you fuckers probably hate to hear this, but I miss At the drive-in...

OverDefined (January 31, 2006)

I was a fan until I saw them live. This guy is a moderate guitar player at best and just wanks for hours. Anyone who's into their live show should check out Miles Davis' electric period, especially Bitches Brew, Live-Evil, and the DVD Another Kind of Blue.

Godfather (January 31, 2006)

these guys dominate the suck

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

Holy Shit the new Larry Arms rips!

ThreeChordsAndTheTruth (January 31, 2006)

I like this band but I wasn't so sure about this. The first track has weird baby noises that just pissed me off, not set me up for some ambient chillout grooves. Cedric's scream on Take The Veil was badass, though.

hey_sailor (January 31, 2006)

Homeboy is a fucking crazy EP...Hella are pretty sick, as are The Advantage. Volta kick your ass too, whether you realize it or not

istapledmyfoot (January 31, 2006)

or the new Hella. That shit is weeeeiiird.

istapledmyfoot (January 31, 2006)

this almost makes me want to try to like frances the mute again. but then.. fuck it. If I want sweet spacey shit I'll just listen to Mahavishnu.

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

oooo boy he can noodle on his guitar for 25 minutes straight, that must make him a guitar god

nigga plz

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

One of the best live bands in HISTORY. better than your favorite.

stevejonestherealbones (January 31, 2006)

this is the band that formed when Refused broke up right?

i kinda like the other band that came from that split better, plus 44

- jones the bones

- stevejonestherealbones

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

the mars "vulva"
eats cock (and crack) hahahahah

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

bleeding through

Anonymous (January 31, 2006)

sick band live.

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