I haven’t been enjoying Matthew Herbert’s Scale anywhere as much as I liked Plat Du Jour, which was one of my top albums of 2005. Scale’s nice and catchy for when you’re riding in a convertible and drinking cocktails with paper umbrellas in them but I don’t find it as musically interesting as Plat Du Jour, and after a while all the breezy flirtiness of the music feels a bit vapid to me.
Since it appears (from the Metacritic stats, anyway) that the bulk of music writers don’t agree with me, I thought I’d dig up my old unpublished, unpolished review of Plat Du Jour and give it the props I should have last year:
Plat Du Jour took 2 years to research and 6 months to record. It was born out of Matthew Herbert’s growing distaste for the workings of the international food chain and the songs themselves are crafted using, amongst other sounds, eggs as percussion, melodies made from blowing over the top of a Pepsi Max bottle, and field recordings of slimfast breakfast drinks tied to a bike and ridden round the yard.
So there’s a fair amount of gimmickry on Plat Du Jour and a couple of ways to react to it. One, you can explore the site as you listen to the album, marvel at the lengths he went to in making this, and actually learn something about what we should all perhaps think harder about before ingesting. Two, you can dismiss it as wank and simply see if the album holds up on its own musical merits first without having to bother about The Message.
I chose option two, plus a large order of fries to go. But thankfully, the music impressed me enough to make me want to find out more about The Message, which I think is quite possibly the best outcome a musician could hope for.
Plat Du Jour makes you bop ya head considerably more often than you would expect from an album which bases one of its songs (The Final Meal Of Stacey Lawton) on the jar of pickles a condemned man ate for his last meal. The song featuring various field recordings of chickens (The Truncated Life Of A Modern Industrialised Chicken) is, well, quite funky. These Branded Waters gets great wind instrument tones from the mouths of San Pellegrino bottles and segues halfway into a jazzy bit where I somehow keep feeling they’re going to break into the Super Mario theme. I can’t exactly pinpoint the amazing bass on An Empire Of Coffee from the recording details on the site but I think it’s probably 2 Sara Lee instant croissant tins tied together with a piece of garden string and plucked. Celebrity has Dani Siciliano on vocals, is made entirely from food endorsed by celebrities and features a chorus of “Go Gordon! Go Ramsay! Go Beyonce! Go Beyonce!” Hidden Sugars backfires a bit insofar as it gives me yet another reason to love cans of Coke – which all its melodies, chords and basslines are made from.
Making a concept album is often a sure-fire way to garner criticism from people who just don’t buy into it, but I do think you can enjoy this album purely for its music regardless of whether you buy its message. My only criticism, and it’s tongue-in-cheek at that, is that the great music Matthew Herbert’s made from junk food only validates my abiding love of it. I bet this album wouldn’t be half as fun if it were only made from organic produce.