For a pair of guys who got their start breakdancing in the late '80s, Plaid (aka
Ed Handley and Andy Turner, and formerly known as The Black Dog) have certainly matured past the frenetic pace of their youth. They've traded in their slick beats and bumping grooves and headed straightaway into the dark, tumultuous recesses of middle age. The result is something both wise and childlike, capable of being appreciated on multiple levels.
If someone were to compose an ice ballet comprised primarily of Casio keyboard tones, and involving a princess, a bloodthirsty wolf and a water wheel powered by dwarves, it might sound something like Spokes (Okay, now you're really reaching. -- Ed). "Even Spring" utilizes an impassioned disembodied voice to vaguely unnerving effect. "Crumax Rins" ebbs and flows with the seedy plans of the underworld, while "B Born Droid" sounds like it could accompany a softly-lit scene between postcoital robots. Every track seems packed to the gills with its own story to tell, though the seeds of each story seem rooted in the days of fat synthesizers and big hair. This is a disc that springs to life under closer inspection but also serves quite capably as background music -- the kind that draws in casual listeners and gets them asking questions. Plaid have done double duty this time around, and Spokes should easily satisfy both their rabid fans and the merely curious.