The Monochrome Set
6th June 2015
The Monochrome Set return to Glasgow with support from local up-and-comers Van Impe.
The Monochrome Set have long been a favourite of the cognosenti of Glasgow; several gigs in the eighties at the legendary Nitemoves introduced a generation of music fans to their world of arch lyricism, twisted pop and Ennio Morricone guitars. Forget Josef K, the main influence on Franz Ferdinand was clearly the Monochrome Set.
Glasgow is a wind-lashed wilderness tonight; not only is it weather for staying at home, but the most anticipated Champions League final in years is on TV slap bang in the middle of the gig. Van Impe (named after the legendary Belgian TDF cyclist rather than the nutty TV evangelist) have drawn the short straw tonight; their set starts right on kick-off time and there are only a few hardy souls in for them.
No matter, the band (who’ve been creating something of a stir locally) play as if they’re in front of a home-game crowd. Sam Davies who fronts the band is a real charismatic presence and his lead guitar foil Marc Tuffley provides sizzling riffs across the bands tightly coiled songs. There’s influences drawn from post-punk, garage rock and alt. country. Occasionally it seems that Van Impe are a band in search of identity and it often seems as if there’s a little too much going on in the songs, but when they hit the sweet spot, they deliver in spades. Prediliction is all kinds of perfect and I reckon these boys are one to watch in the coming months. Nice to see Bob Gray out of retirement and behind the kit, too.
The Monochrome Set take the stage with little fuss and the crowd has now filled out to reaching capacity. Andy Warren and Bid take their places, Warren with one foot crossed over the other in that familiar stance. Lester Square no longer tours with the band and a drummer and keyboard player complete, erm, the set. New album Spaces Everywhere is getting a live run-out amongst the more familiar material and the songs from it slide in effortlessly. Opening with Super Plastic City the years fall away. It’s almost as if the self-same album (and Platinum Coils from 2012) are a continuum from the mighty Eligible Batchelors back in ’82. Many bands evolve but few as well and as discretely as the Monochrome Set. Much of the songs played tonight seem timeless; Jet Set Junta and Alphaville remain classics in any era.
Bid gets his spaghetti western twang on with The Devil Rides Out and The Mating Game is as arch and naughty as it was back then. Warren barely cracks a smile or moves from his appointed spot, but his snaking bass-lines are as integral to the group as Bid’s raised-eyebrow wordplay.
The set can only end with Eine Symphony Des Grauens and they’re quickly back out for a brisk run-through of The Monochrome Set (the song) before departing into the night.
Final score – Monochrome Set 3, Champions League 1.
All words by Joe Whyte. More writing by Joe on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.