I am a huge Plaid fan. I cut my teeth on their stuff back when Not For Threes came out (almost ten years ago!) and steadily worked my way backwards into Black Dog territory as well as forwards through Double Figure and Spokes. I've noticed that their sound always seems to be evolving; unlike many groups, they have not stagnated, but have seemed always to be trying to bring their sound into new areas.
Perhaps this is why Greedy Baby is such a difficult piece of work to review -- Plaid hasn't so much brought their sound per se into new areas, but has developed their "art," so to speak, to encompass the visual realm as well. As a DVD piece with both audio and video, Greedy Baby is, in my opinion, a success. What makes it a success is its sheer originality. I have never partaken in artwork like this. It is most definitely not a collection of music videos; there is no real plot or story being told by the majority of the songs. The videos are "sightscapes" designed to flow with the music Plaid produces; the music is designed to flow right along with the video. You know the cool kind of trippy visual effects you can see in Winamp/Media Player/etc? The feeling is similar, except the visuals are far more advanced and much more in tune with the music. Watching/listening to this DVD -- having my eyes occupied by the visuals and my ears ocupied by the 5.1 surround sound -- I felt completely engrossed in the experience that Plaid and Bob Jaroc have created. When the DVD was over, I felt like I had just woken from an intense hour-long dream.
To get into specifics, I personally enjoyed "I Citizen the Loathesome" and "Launching of Big Face." The music in "Loathesome" is reminiscent of stuff you heard on Double Figure, set to panning shots of deserted night streets and buildings. The general feeling is rather mysterious and creepy. The track builds to a climax, and the end has a sort of joltingly scary moment (although I won't give it away here). "Big Face" is very beautiful, both visually and musically. This may be the easiest track for Plaid fans to connect with, as it features the same kind of interesting melodic progressions Plaid is somewhat famous for.
Many people seem to be in love with "Return of Super Barrio," but to be honest, the track struck me as a little too political. While there are those who will say that bands have a responsibility to deal with the pressing issues of our time, I prefer music that helps me forget about all the depressing goings-on in the world, which is what Plaid's music has hitherto accomplished perfectly. "Barrio" doesn't have a very deep political message, either -- a 6-year-old could probably tell you exactly what all the images were trying to communicate. But I digress.
So, you may be thinking, if this DVD is so great, why the 3-star rating? Well, the problem here is that Plaid fans are most likely expecting another musical masterpiece, but unfortunately, Greedy Baby is not it. As I said before, the music and the video are completely intertwined, sadly to the point where they are inseparable. As audio tracks alone, there is not much to get excited about. I can't really give the audio a positive review OR a negative review -- I am pretty much indifferent to it. It's very lackluster, rather average stuff; none of the tunes inspire the same colorful imagery that, say, Rest Proof Clockwork did. It actually reminds me of some of the more melodic stuff Autechre did (sorry, I'm not an Autechre fan). Plaid was nice to provide an audio CD of the works contained in Greedy Baby, but in the end, the music depends on the video to the point where a CD is pointless. In fact, I think the CD is almost detrimental in that many people may love the DVD until they listen to the music alone and hear it for what it is.
Anyway, I give Plaid credit for trying something new that no other groups seem to be doing. The Greedy Baby experience would be amazing to see in a proper theater. Until I get the opportunity to see Plaid live, though, the DVD will suffice. The CD, however, has gone into the closet, where it will probably stay for a long time.