Monday, April 30, 2012

Monochrome Set Review

Back through the mists of history, every note of every piece of music I heard whether I liked it or not burst with meaning and poignancy, etching itself into my life as a measure of hope, fear, wonder, terror: all of those rattling emotions a teenager grapples with on their way to the unknown destinations of adulthood.
Time passes, things change, and new musical experiences nudge the old into sidings; you have waved goodbye to your past and you stand with the present in your hands, admiring its musical jewels as they catch the light and twinkle at you enticingly.
How strange it is to be carried back to the past so cleanly! From the first cheeky crunch of the drum intro to The Monochrome Set, excitement rushed round my veins in a collective whoosh with that of the rest of the audience.
Tolerantly, Bid stood with a small smile on his face waiting for the audience to realise that extra bars had been added just to annoy us. His insouciance is all part of the recipe: it's there in the tone of his voice, rich and pompous, nodding in the direction of Lou Reed, yet more English than English. It's there in the way he surveys the band, as though he is King; but he's not, because on one side is Lester Square, huge moustache resting like a landing eagle upon his upper lip (and already copied by certain gentlemen in the audience; this is not a Billy Childish moustache, it's a Lester Square one).
Lester is wringing scorching riffs out of his guitar, fooling us into thinking that we have heard them before on some TV programme broadcast from the moon. And on the other side is Andy Warren, delicate and pointy, all innocence. No-one would guess that that fierce and thundering bass sound is emanating from him!
A comely lass plays violin between Bid and Andy: she's not scared, either. Later, she switches effortlessly to mandolin.
Behind them, a mysterious drummer manages to keep a red fez balanced on his head throughout.
Miss Universe... Junta Jet Set.... and new songs from their album as well.
My Champagne Friend and myself ease ourselves down to the front, in front of the giant and deafening PA speakers where we can dance. An unfeasibly floppy hippie plops down in front of us, leaping into the air at every stab of punctuated noise. Between songs, Bid quips:
"We are going to play three new songs, then two old ones, then some new songs, then some old ones, and then you are all going to go home".
The men in anoraks that used to go to see them in the old days have grown up to be men in grey macs (the coat, not the computer). This is marginally better than anoraks, and they have mostly aged rather well; possibly they were not taking as many drugs back then as the rest of us were. I remember an evening spent with Lester Square in which we bemoaned the fact that such untrendy people came to see both the Chefs and the Monochrome Set. We didn't even know where everyone else went: it was just that they didn't come to see us. But at least they have been loyal- Dingwalls was pretty packed last night (and The Chefs CD sold 500 before it was even released).
Cast a Long Shadow (Bed of haggis? What?), B.I.D. ( I can sing along with that one and sadly, reader, I did)...
How I wish they had played for longer! A measly hour! I wanted more music and I wanted more drums (not loud enough, PA man!). I want them to play more often because I am a proper fan. I want to hear the new songs live again- not because I am too stingy to buy a CD but because this band is a really good live band with an astonishingly unique sound.
Just ask the floppy hippie!


Vanessa said...

Great review - you really captured the spirit of the night! I had no floppy hippie near me, but a man in orange shimmying with all the vigour of a centrifuge. Have fond memories of you playing with TMS at the educational establishment formerly known as Kingston Poly.

Helen McCookerybook said...

That was the first ever Helen and the Horns gig! I remember it well. The audience was very sweet to us, and I abandoned the idea of getting bass and drums that very night: everything just seemed so easy without.
The Monochrome Set also gave Bananarama their first gig!

Martin Stephenson said...

Brilliant, one of the best bands ever, The Chefs & Monochrome Set were two of my most favourite bands xx