The Monochrome Set - 1979-1985: Complete Recordings album review

Non-stop colourful pop excellence

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For a while in the late70s The Monochrome Set were fingered as an arch post-punk enigma, belonging to a tradition that includes Wire, The Smiths, Blur, Microdisney and The Divine Comedy, though they weren’t really in thrall to any trend. This glorious box set gathers their first four albums plus a generous array of singles and reinforces the view: how the hell did they miss the boat? The opening Strange Boutique sets the scene, mingling fantasy scenarios with music for imaginary soundtracks like a cut-price Eno on the title track or an English Talking Heads on Love Goes Down The Drain. Their second 1980 release, Love Zombies, is a richer neopsychedelic affair that bubbles with instrumental invention, showcasing lead singer Bid’s cool lyrics and lead guitarist Lester Square’s ability to reference Jet Harris or Arthur Lee with the flick of a plectrum. Eligible Bachelors is their masterpiece thanks to the surf epics On The 13th Day and The Midas Touch. The big budget The Lost Weekend (1985) was a push for stardom but its dreamy eccentricity never clicked. Too bad, because the Set’s social send-ups and droll rock modernism were way ahead of the game. Turn on and tune in.