The Agit Reader

The Monochrome Set

April 3rd, 2018  |  by Dorian S. Ham

The Monochrome Set, MaisieworldShoutout to the bands that can’t seem to stop being a band no matter what the world throws at them. History tends to flatten out the past to only include the big players, but for every band you know there are like 20 who were grinding away at the same time—and some who still are. One such band is the Monochrome Set. Part of the British post-punk wave in 1978, the band seemed to make all the right moves: they debuted with singles on Rough Trade, released their first two studio full-lengths on Virgin Records imprint DinDisc, then had a brief spin on Cherry Red before being signed to Warner Bros. Records. Their pedigree was unquestionable. Then their major label debut flopped and the band broke up.

But the second part of that tale is where the band reunites, working steady between 1990 and 1998 before going on hiatus. For the third act, the band reunited once more in 2008 on the occasion of Cherry Red’s 30th anniversary, which also coincided with the 30th anniversary of the band. Two years later they made it official and became on ongoing concern again. The fruits of this reunion is their 14th studio album, Maisieworld (Tapete Records).

If you knew absolutely nothing about the band, it would be easy to think it was a lost record from the ‘60s. But then you listen a little closer and realize that the production sounds a little bit tougher and robust that the techniques from the past. Then you realize the arrangements seem slightly not accurate for the time. Then it’s dawns on you that this a new recording that just sounds really retro. It’s not like they’re doing any nostalgia mining, but it sounds so natural, it makes you question the band’s post-punk roots. To be fair, a lot can happen over the course of 40 years.

The record is a cross between Edwyn Collins (circa Gorgeous George), with some touches of The Zombies and the Strawberry Alarm Clock and a smattering of the Bakersfield Sound. The record’s success can be attributed to the experience of the band. There are so many little performance and production touches that deepen every track on Maisieworld. There’s nothing flashy, but there is a ton of really clever arrangements and auxiliary instrumentation that seem like magic tricks. There’s an equal amount of cleverness and humor in the songwriting. From “Give Me Your Youth” to “I Feel Fine, Really” there’s a light touch that helps propel things along. Overall, the record is a revelation. If The Monochrome Set can be inspired 40 years down the road, we all have a chance.

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