Monday, March 28, 2016

A Quick Review Of The New Monochrome Set Compilation

If you never heard The Monochrome Set before and spun "Something About You", the lead track on the new compilation Volume, Contrast, Brilliance... Vol. 2: Unreleased and Rare, you'd be right in thinking that this band's stuff is hard to easily summarize. Riding a "Pleasant Valley Sunday" riff into the UK indie scene of 1985, the cut is impressively sharp and less jangle-y than lots of that era. The Monochrome Set were always a bunch of misfits so I suppose it's okay if I tell that this odds and sods collection is, in some ways, a great way to ease into the band's stuff, the band's eclectic charms being perfectly represented here.

Following on from last year's fine Spaces Everywhere album, the band are back on Tapete Records to offer up some of their leftovers. That these tracks are uniformly excellent speaks volumes about this lot; their rarities are better than most bands' album cuts. "Cilla Black", for instance, snarls with a little Sixties-sort of hook in service of a song that may or may not be about the famed singer of the title, while "Reach For Your Gun" from 1985 offers up a shimmering guitar figure underneath some beautiful vocals from Bid that places the cut somewhere near what The Wild Swans were doing at the time up in Liverpool.

What strikes one upon listening to Volume, Contrast, Brilliance... Vol. 2: Unreleased and Rare by The Monochrome Set is the sheer variety on offer here. Sure, this is all indie of a sort, but within the genre restrictions are bits of marshmallow-soft pop ("Stories From The Book Of Love") as well as flashes of real wit ("Whoops! What a Palaver"). I have, perhaps wrongly, always associated The Monochrome Set with the C86 sound and yet what the band are in debt to is really the same strain of Brit indie that gave birth to The Smiths and The Housemartins. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that both of those bands -- as well as countless others -- owe huge debts to the sort of music that The Monochrome Set did so well on tracks like those collected here. Which is a long way of saying that most of those bands on the original C86 cassette wouldn't have existed without The Monochrome Set coming first. And by playing this comp., you'll hear why I say that.

Far too coherent to be labelled a mere rarities compilation, this new release is a semi-perfect introduction to the charms of The Monochrome Set. Volume, Contrast, Brilliance... Vol. 2: Unreleased and Rare is out now via Tapete Records.