I’ll be honest here. I’ve gone right off Plaid over these past few years. ‘Double Figureâ€™ is a brilliant album in my view, but everything after that seemed a bit half-hearted. All of their music started to sound the same, and I even remember reading an interview where Ed Handley and Andy Turner pretty much admitted so. I never bought ‘Spokesâ€™ after it received some pretty mixed reviews.
But I have always been interested in their DVD project, ‘Greedy Baby’, so I snapped it up. It is an album-length collaboration with visual artist Bob Jaroc. They began working on Greedy Baby not long after ‘Double Figure’ came out. Which is a long time ago. In the end they spent four years making ‘Greedy Baby’. Alarm bells should start ringing. Reading between the lines in some interviews, they are just relieved for it to be finished.
Apparently the music to ‘Greedy Baby’ was leaked a few weeks ago. I try to avoid leaks because you can never been 100% sure that you are listening to the real deal. But the initial reaction was bad. I couldn’t decide whether or not to buy ‘Greedy Baby’. In the end I decided to go for it because it has the rather good video to ‘New Family’ included as an extra. I saw Plaid live way back in 2002 and Bob Jaroc’s visuals were memorable, so I thought buying ‘Greedy Baby’ wouldn’t be much of a risk.
It doesn’t start promisingly though. The first track is the absolutely ridiculous ‘War Dialer’. Nothing happens in the music apart from lots of dialling tones and people saying “Hello? Hello?” What a load of rubbish. The visuals are quite good-looking, but clocking in at four minutes long it just gets too boring too quickly. Maybe it sounds good in surround sound, but I wouldn’t know as I am a thwarted two speaker boy.
Luckily, the second track saves the day. ‘I Citizen The Loathsome’ starts off as quite a routine Plaid track, but it builds up into a complete masterpiece. For me, it is undoubtedly the highlight of the album, at least as far as the music goes.
Much of the rest of the DVD follows pretty predictable lines. Most of the videos are pleasent abstract screensaver-style pieces of beauty. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see as a backdrop to a live show, so it’s maybe not best suited for home viewing. You see a lot of these videos rather than watching them. My favourite of the ‘screensaver-style’ videos is ‘The Launching of Big Face’. The music is a fast but twinkling melody. It is accompanied by gentle visuals with a Rorschach-style symmetry. Very pleasent.
Leaving the more abstract videos to the side, we have ‘Zn Zero’. It is an electronic music video set in Japan. Where did they get that idea? Nevertheless, it does have some nice-looking moments, although the music isn’t too good on this track. That is followed by ‘The Return of Super Barrio’, which has a story! It’s like a cartoon. So you can’t just see it — you have to watch it.
Overall, ‘Greedy Baby’ okay, but not great. Some of the videos make for interesting viewing, but a lot of the videos are most suitable to zoning out to, especially when some of them last for up to ten minutes (I am talking about ‘E.M.R’ here). Some of the music is really good, but a lot of it is unspectacular and very much in the predictably Plaid mould. It sounds as though Plaid have decided that they need their music to sound dissonant for some reason. It’s a funny choice for a duo renowned for its melodic music. I don’t think they quite pull it off.
The DVD’s extras are in actual fact the most captivating moments. We have four tracks here, all versions of tracks from the ‘Spokes’ and ‘Double Figure’ albums. The video to ‘Crumax Rins’ is made up of timelapsed images from CNN’s coverage of the Iraq War. Probably trying to make some sort of point.
The best ones are the three from ‘Double Figure’ though. Maybe this is me just being nostalgic for the album and the videos which I recognised as backdrops from that Plaid gig four years ago. The ‘Assault on Precinct Zero’ video features Plaid’s robotic cameras which gave grainy close-up shots of lots of knob twiddling, thereby proving once and for all that they weren’t just checking their emails on those laptops.
‘Zala’ is a memorable video. I can’t explain it. It’s like a cross between 1970s sci-fi, Tellytubby Land and Communist propaganda. But the standout is the popular video to ‘New Family’, which you can view on the Greedy Baby website! Good stuff.
So overall I am left with mixed impressions. Some of the music seems unspectacular at first, but if it grows on me I could at last be tempted to fill in the gaps of my Plaid collection. The visuals I can’t complain about, although it doesn’t always make for captivating viewing. If you want an electronic music DVD, I would be more likely to recommend Meam’s ‘The Lâ€™, which is a bit of an overlooked masterpiece in my view.
Finally, a big pat on the back should go to Warpmart for sending the coolest freebie I’ve ever received.
Warpmart have been given a limited number of small bags of short frames of super 8 film from an unnamed new collaboration by Plaid and Bob Jaroc shot recently in Japan. This film will be finished after the release of the album. This is your chance to own not only the dvd/album but also a genuine physical piece of Plaid and Bob’s creative process for free