The Monochrome Set have to be the greatest undiscovered British band of all time.
They are on tour right now with a new album out and have a gig in Manchester this week.
You HAVE to go and see them. If you love the Smiths, Adam And The Ants, frqnz Fedriand, the Stone Roses and classic British post punk BE THERE.
They emerged in post punk with an endless stream of songs that featured exquisite guitar playing from Lester Square and deadpan vocals from the charismatic Bid. Every song was dripping melody and surreal dark humour and we used to love them.
They shared members and art school British warped pop ideas with Adam And the Ants and were a huge influence on the Smiths (2 of the singles in Morrissey’s famous singles box when Johnny Marr went round for the first meeting were from the Monochrome Set and Johnny Marr is a huge fan).
I could also swear I can hear their influence on the Stone Roses- especially some of the long instrumentals on the Roses debut album and Franz Ferdinand were massive fans (often mistakingly compared to the Gang Of Four- Franz were massive Monochrome Set fans- their pre Franz band, Karalia was produced by Monochrome Set frontman Bid).
The songs are like the most perfect pop you ever heard and only the band’s wilful artfulness has prevented them from being huge. Still at least they have reformed. I can’t wait for this gig. I saw them in Manchester twice in the late seventies and those gigs still live with me.
Johnny Marr in my oral history of manchester book
‘So I went over to this box of only a few singles which was quite impressive he was very select I flicked through them and there was the monochrome set was one and a lot of old girl group records. Great band’
I once did a blog in the Guardian about them…
There haven’t been many bands like the Monochrome Set. They should have been absolutely massive, but instead were sidelined by their post-punk peers and were too clever by half for the Noel Edmonds mainstream.
Lost in the mists of musical history, the Monochrome Set appeared in the hazy period just after punk and hung around for a good two decades, releasing clever albums full of hook-crammed melodies and coloured with a dark sense of humour. Frontman Bid’s arch vocals gave the band a wonderful camp quality, and it was probably his lyrical smarts that alerted a young Morrissey to their presence; they were even one of his favourite groups before he formed the Smiths. Johnny Marr recalls first meeting Morrissey and flicking through his singles collection that Morrissey had whittled down to just 10 seven-inchs. Along with some girl groups and T-Rex, were the Monochrome Set. This must have impressed Marr, because they too were one of his favourite bands.
The Smiths have an air of the Monochrome Set about them: that brisk beat, 1960s twist, mystique, brilliant guitar tunes, and a strong sense of humour. You could say that the only difference is that the Smiths became the most important British band of the 1980s, while the Monochrome Set were relegated to such obscurity that only fevered specialists like Graham Coxon or Norman Cook (whose Brighton Port Authority covered He’s Frank) would notice.
Another Monochrome Set devotee was Alex Kapranos who, in his pre-Franz Ferdinand incarnation of Karelia, coaxed Bid out of semi-retirement to produce him. When Franz Ferdinand emerged in 2002 they were bizarrely compared to Gang of Four ”â a band they sounded nothing like ”â when their most obvious role model was the Monochrome Set.
The band had formed in 1977 from the ashes of the B-Sides, whose bass player Stuart Goddard decided he would rather be Adam Ant. Initially, both bands shared an audience of freaks who were too bizarre for punk. Then Adam became a superstar.
It’s clearly time we resurrected the Monochrome Set, arguably the first truly postmodern pop band. They await your company on YouTube now.