Stylish post-punk, pre-new wave UK outfit The Monochrome Set has long been on my list of influential artists of yesteryear to dig more deeply into. With the 2012 release of its tenth studio album, Platinum Coils, and its first U.S. tour in 30 years just announced – including a stop at PhilaMOCA on the 30th of May – the time seemed as appropriate as ever.
The band formed in late 70s London after the dissolve of a formative group called The B-Sides. The frontman of that group, Stuart Goddard, went on to become Adam Ant; two of his mates, monickered Bid (offstage name Ganesh Seshadri) and Lester Square (Thomas W.B. Hardy), continued forth in a nervy and eclectic direction with The Monochrome Set.
Its ever-in-flux sound echoed the uneasiness and paranoia of contemporaries Television Personalities, Young Marble Giants and Wire, then evolved to bridge that world with the arty pop songwriting of XTC and The Smiths, and even the emerging twee sounds coming from The Vaselines. So, in general, they worked in tandem with lots of cool, revered artists, and paved the way for even more cool, revered artists. Check out a selection of music videos and audio tracks from the band’s vaults below, and get tickets and information for the band’s May 30th appearance at PhilaMOCA’s website.
“Eine Symphonie Des Grauens” – performed at Minneapolis’ M80 festival in 1979. This garagey number, released as an early 7″, mixes a loopy minor key eastern-influenced refrain with some sinewey guitars and a stomping beat.
“He’s Frank” – another early single, the juxtaposition between bouncy swagger and uneasy tension on this one reminds me of the XTC classic Drums and Wires.
“Strange Boutique” – The title track from their 1980 debut is a mix of punkish dissonance and distress with a very classic Crampsy underbelly, making its 50s rock tones swerve dark. Gotta love also the complexity of the chord and tempo changes on this one. If this band was going to play pop, they didn’t want to make it easy to swallow.
“The Man With The Black Moustache” – going poppier still on Love Zombies, The Monochrome Set’s sophomore album from 1980.
“Jet Set Junta” – with vaguely political lyrics and a catchy surf rock keyboard line, this 1983 single feels cinematic and retro before “retro” was necessarily a thing. Dig the haircuts on this music video too.
“Golden Waters” – from the 1990 reunion album Dante’s Casino, this drum-free television performance seems like it might have fit nicely on the then-emerging Slumberland label.
The Monochrome Set appears with Farquar Muckenfuss at PhilaMOCA on Thursday, May 30th. The all-ages show begins at 9 p.m., tickets are $12, more information can be found at the venue’s website.PhilaMOCA, The Monochrome Set