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Album Review

The Mars Volta

Scabdates [Live] (2005)



Scabdates is the Mars Volta’s first live album, and latest release. The November 2005 Universal Records release comes just a few months after their last studio album Frances the Mute. Scabdates is made up songs from their previous albums, De-loused in the comatorium, and Tremulant, as well as some songs/jams not found on any of their studio albums.

In this review The Mars Volta are given 2.5 out of 5 for the music on Scabdates. There are twelve songs on the album that plays in a just under 73 minutes. The music blends rock with funk and other groove-based styles. There is a 70’s stoner rock feel to the album. The songs are performed with professional precision and finesse. The fills and solos unique to The Mars Volta result in some fun and interesting music. They are also the downfall of the album.

In an attempt to capture the live effect of the band, Scabdates is full of long solos, musical interludes, and ambient effects. This makes up the bulk of the album and is far overdone. Songs drag on into various extended mixes, and the lengthy intros and outros sound for the most part like nothing more than aimless doodling. In front of a large intoxicated audience, and with a good live show this could be effective. On a stereo or discman it is boring, and sometimes annoying.

For considerations specific to the band, The Mars Volta receive 1 out of 2. Attempting to capture a band’s live effect on a record is a difficult task. Scabdates has captured the music and concept of a Mars Volta show fairly competently so a point is earned. It becomes quite obvious however, when listening to the album, that this band’s live show is about much more than just the music. Without the visuals and general atmosphere that would accompany the show the disc becomes redundant. A DVD would have been more appropriate in presenting the experience of the Mars Volta live.

Sound quality of this album gets 1 ½ out of 2. Since Scabdates is a live album the tones are not quite as clear as they would be in a studio recording. However, as a live album the quality is superb. Instruments and vocals are well mixed and leveled, and all tones and timbres are well suited to the musical style.

For the physical attributes of Scabdates, The Mars Volta receive ½ out of 1. The 3-page pamphlet-opening style booklet contains a list of the live performers in the band, a collage of live pictures, and a few brief notes on how the album was recorded and put together. Designs/artwork used are consistent with the psychedelic themes apparent in the music. Apart from one very blurry picture on the back of the case, there are no pictures of the entire stage with the full lineup. This would have helped to capture the live atmosphere of the album a little more.

With a final rating of 5 ½ out of 10, Scabdates is an album that would only appeal to hard-core Mars Volta fans, or people who enjoy listening to hour + long jams. The songs drag on and the live effect is only partially captured. The professionalism of the band is impressive, and aside from the jams the music is great. However, anyone who wants to experience The Mars Volta live is better off going to a show than purchasing this album. The studio albums of The Mars Volta are definitely good enough to keep someone satisfied until band comes to their city.  [ END ]

Track Listing:

01. Abrasions Mount The Timpani
02. Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt
03. A. Gust of Mutts
04. B. And Ghosted Pouts
05. Caviglia
06. Concertina
07. Haruspex
08. Cicatriz
09. A. Part 1
10. B. Part II
11. C. Part III
12. D. Part IV

Run Time: 1:12:54

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