The Mars Volta is by far the most bizarre and insane musical experience of the past 20 years. It is also one of the most talented and innovative bands of the past 20 years … for some. The Mars Volta is an acquired taste, but once you have it, it can be one of the greatest experiences ever. It stands to reason, then, that The Mars Volta’s live show would be in the same vein.

“Scabdates” is The Mars Volta’s first live album and does its best to give someone who has never heard the band’s live show an idea of what it is like. The 73-minute album is pretty good but the fact that it is broken into 12 tracks somewhat disrupts the flow since a Mars Volta concert is continuous. The decision to divide the album into 12 sections may alienate some hardcore fans but it does make the album more accessible to casual listeners and newcomers.

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The accessibility, though, refers only to the time of the songs. Such songs as “Cicatriz” and “Caviglia” don’t suddenly become pop songs; they are still as experimental as they were meant to be. The bizarre spasms of music at random moments are still there, a feat few other bands can pull off. The occasional incoherent vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala remain as well.

Thanks to polished and smooth production, the album comes off cleaner than any Mars Volta show would. You are instantly able to hear all the melodies, instrumentals, vocals, and music samples that would easily get lost in the mix of an actual show.

A Mars Volta show is, essentially, a handful of songs buried under a mess of instrumental jams, samples, and incoherent vocals that are all locked into a flow unlike most bands’ live shows. It is an experience that one must have but for those who can’t get to a live show, this will have to do.

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