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Alternative & Indie - Released September 27, 2019 | Tapete Records

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Rock - Released January 1, 1995 | Virgin Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | El Records

Fancifully described as the soundtrack to a non-existent French film about "political high and low life," 1988's WESTMINSTER AFFAIR is actually a compilation of the Monochrome Set's mid-'80s work for Cherry Red Records. Opening with the wittily politicized 1983 single "The Jet Set Junta," the 19-track collection continues through several other singles, including the slyly rude "The Mating Game," a handful of album tracks like "March of the Eligible Bachelors," and a few fairly rare B-sides, including the wild instrumentals "J.D.H.A.N.E.Y." and "Lester Leaps In," named for the band's drummer and guitarist respectively. The packaging here is spectacular, though there's little rhyme or reason to the selection or its sequencing, and many of these tracks are available on more than one compilation. However, there's no denying the dry humor and casual intelligence of these songs, or their melodic strength.
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Punk / New Wave - Released March 16, 2018 | Cherry Red Records

Pop - Released September 16, 2016 | Rhino

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The Monochrome Set's curtain call before Bid launched a haphazard solo career, Lost Weekend offers "Jacob's Ladder," which was almost a hit single (heck, there was even a video). It was not to be, however, despite the move to Warners' subsidiary Blanco y Negro. The irony of the Monochrome Set was that they were always a small-budget band working on the most regal material. Still, there are several more great songs here, the best including "Letter from Viola," "Cargo," and "Wallflower" (also a single). ~ Alex Ogg
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 1980 | Tapete Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 17, 1980 | Tapete Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 24, 2019 | Tapete Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 6, 2019 | Tapete Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 10, 2008 | Cherry Red Records

For all of the many sterling qualities the Monochrome Set exhibited over the years -- and truly, they were one of the most consistently enjoyable bands of the U.K. indie pop scene during their periods of activity, circa 1978-1985 and 1990-1995 -- they were absolutely maddening about their compilations. For one thing, the band released nine proper studio albums in their two incarnations, from 1980's Strange Boutique to 1995's Trinity Road, but more than half again that number of compilations have been released since the first, 1982's grab-bag of BBC radio sessions, early singles, and unreleased tracks Volume Contrast Brilliance. Many of these have mashed together re-recorded versions of familiar Monochrome Set songs (with no indication of their provenance) with outtakes, B-side rarities, and unexpected gems that have appeared nowhere else, but there has never been a truly comprehensive collection of Monochrome Set singles. Frankly, it seems highly unlikely that there ever will be one, because Virgin Records maintains control of the group's first two albums, Strange Boutique and 1981's Love Zombies, while Cherry Red has the reins to the rest of the catalog, barring 1985's misbegotten The Lost Weekend, a release for Warner Brothers' Blanco y Negro label that tried to turn the defiantly quirky group into mainstream pop stars. 1997's double-disc Chaps got past this problem by having the mid-'90s lineup of the band re-record the Virgin and Warner Brothers era material; it's simpler to just buy either Colour Transmission or Tomorrow Will Be Too Long: The Very Best of the Monochrome Set, either of which contains both Virgin albums in their entirety, and to ignore The Lost Weekend. With those caveats aside, 2008's The Independent Singles Collection is, at last, Cherry Red's attempt to make sense of the Monochrome Set's non-LP catalog. Lacking the rights to the Virgin and Warner Brothers material, The Independent Singles Collection therefore doesn't have gems like 1980's gorgeously spooky "Goodbye Joe" or 1985's "Wallflower" (the one gem from that era), nor does it contain any of singer/primary songwriter Bid's solo singles released during the group's late-'80s hiatus. But it does finally gather in one place the A- and B-sides of all of the band's independently released singles, from "He's Frank" (in both its original version from their 1978 debut single and the superior 1979 remake "He's Frank (Slight Return)") to 1995's "Kissy Kissy." This includes comparative rarities like the original single recording of 1982's "The Jet Set Junta," a different version than the more familiar take that has appeared on most previous compilations, including Volume Contrast Brilliance, and a number of lesser known flip sides that showcase the band's more experimental side. If someone was only planning to buy one Monochrome Set compilation, this should be the one. ~ Stewart Mason
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 1, 2019 | Tapete Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 1992 | Richmond Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 1992 | Richmond Records

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Fin

Rock - Released December 18, 2006 | El Records

Originally released, during the band's first extended hiatus, as FIN, this live collection was reissued with a less pessimistic title after the Monochrome Set reconvened in the late '80s. An excellent compilation of live performances pieced together from a variety of sources, including concerts, rehearsals, television appearances and radio sessions, THE GOOD LIFE shows that the Monochrome Set's strengths as a live act were under-appreciated. Not only capable of tackling often-complex song structures and speedy tempos, but also of making the results sound easy and fun, the Monochrome Set was always an enjoyable live act. The highlights of this compilation are mostly uptempo songs such as the pulsating "He's Frank," and the manic "Strange Boutique," which sound almost punky here. However, more downtempo tracks like the breezy fetish celebration "Straits of Malacca," and the moody "B-I-D Spells Bid," are not without charm.
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Rock - Released January 1, 2000 | Cherry Red Records

One of the band's few forays outside of their long-term home Cherry Red, Dante's Casino was their first release since re-forming at the end of 1989 (with the addition of new guitarist Orson Presence). One listen to "Bella Morte" will confirm your prejudices about the Monochrome Set: you'll either love the clever wordplay and effortless hooks which have always embossed their genre-defying sound, or you'll consider them a poor man's XTC. ~ Alex Ogg
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Rock - Released January 1, 1995 | Cherry Red Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 1979 | Cherry Red Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Cherry Red Records

The Monochrome Set's final album before the extended sabbatical of their career (they'd spent most of the second half of the '80s dormant before returning with 1990's Dante's Casino), 1996's Trinity Road shows that it was about time for Bid and the boy to give it a rest for a while. There are a few good songs, especially the jaunty "The Mousetrap" (concerning the stardom dreams of a shy schoolboy, set to a Kinks-like melody) and the ironically titled "Bliss," a cutting portrait of a troubled marriage, but the album as a whole is listless, with songs less melodically rich and lyrically intriguing than usual, and everyone seems to be going through the motions. ("Flamen Dialis" is basically a rewrite of the far superior "Mind Field," from 1992's Charade.) Not exactly bad -- Bid is too canny a craftsman for that -- Trinity Road is still the weakest album of the Monochrome Set's long and productive career. Points for the song title "The Wurst Is Yet to Come," however. ~ Stewart Mason
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Rock - Released January 1, 1995 | Cherry Red Records

As a document of this ever-inventive band's earliest material dating from 1975 to 1979 -- before they signed with Virgin -- B&W Minstrels encompasses the Monochrome Set singles for Rough Trade and Disques Bleu, as well as previously unheard demos. This marks an engaging period in their development, though to some extent, the group seemed to be born fully formed anyway. Most bands at this stage in their career haven't a clue as to what they want to sound like. For spoiled kids the Monochrome Set, however, the problem seemed to be one of choosing from their innumerable options; here's a band who could settle happily in any style they wanted, from straight pop to ballroom or cabaret. B&W Minstrels provides an entertaining run through their early repertoire, and it saves you from having to hunt down those singles. ~ Alex Ogg
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Rock - Released January 1, 1994 | Cherry Red Records

Like Steely Dan, the Monochrome Set's later albums are more extreme than their earlier ones, in that the music gets progressively smoother and more genteel as the lyrical concerns grow odder and more abstruse. For example, "Pauper," the first single from 1995's Misere, finds singer/songwriter Bid singing about the joys of being utterly broke while cadging 150 pounds "for a really expensive album" from an unsuspecting mark in the chorus, all to a folky pop tune that sounds like Dave Matthews covering Prefab Sprout. Elsewhere, "Leather Jacket" is the best love song to that garment since the Chills' mid-'80s ode to sartorial splendor, "I Love My Leather Jacket," and the opening "Milk and Honey" ruminates darkly on death while quoting Leadbelly's "Midnight Special." Meanwhile, the melodies are mellow and the production is slick, sounding more like late-period Roxy Music than the antic XTC-like sound of the Monochrome Set's earlier albums. Misere isn't a bad record at all, but the surface slickness takes some work to get past to find the meat in the songs themselves. ~ Stewart Mason