The Mars Volta
Scab Dates (Live)
Prepare. You will be traveling to Mexico where you will board a spaceship. The launch base is hidden in the depths of the earth. Villages with inhabitants oblivious to this space program surround the launch site. Traveling by car, you will drive through these villages, consumed by the noise of children screaming and playing. Soon you will leave this familiar earth. Upon arrival at the base, you will descend into the underground terminal. A woman will give instructions in Spanish as you walk to the spaceship. You will sit back, be strapped in, and hear yourself breathing slowly and remembering “Space Odyssey 2001” – its colors, its noises and its solitude. Equipment will rattle as you surpass light-speed, and a high-pitched cry will descend upon you.
All the sounds you just imagined (visuals provided by me) begin Mars Volta’s live album Scab Dates, created by Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez. There’s nothing more live than hearing Cedric Bixler-Zavala occasionally sing off-key to songs that are familiar from the album
“De-Loused in the Comatorium” or being disappointed when Omar and the band don’t always deliver the same quality you anticipate. But there’s also nothing more live than hearing new songs, tempos the cheering crowd falls in love with, and Cedric’s panting and Omar’s musical wandering.
The three-track “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt,” for example, is at first an annoying attempt at the original song from “De-Loused.” There is none of the anticipation, and there are no guitar, organ, or bass solos that drive the original song. This version is too fast and too redundant. Until, that is, Cedric stops wailing and the sound-effects catapult us back into space. As we speed along in space, Cedric’s voice is no longer forced. The attempt to reproduce the original song ends and the band creates something new and amazing.
Don’t miss the completely funked-out “Cicatriz, Pt. 2.” The energy will make you bounce as you feel the song expand infinitely around you.
With a deep longing, songs like “Caviglia” summon us back from floating helplessly. Omar is a master at writing such broad, seemingly aimless music and then sewing it all back up neatly; the song “Concertina” follows with inventive solos and Cedric’s powerful and heartfelt voice.
However, don’t approach this trip lightly. It will have to grow on you, even if you listen to the Mars Volta and especially if you don’t. Once you overcome your confusion about the structure and nature of the album, you will appreciate the imagination and passion behind it. Listen closely so you don’t miss any strange and fantastic sounds. The voyage will be more trippy than real.
So, when will we land? If we keep listening, we’ll forever be high.