The Monochrome Set: Love Zombies & Strange Boutique

The Monochrome Set are an indie band who seem to have swallowed the rule book of pop music, spat it out and produced two albums which, while on the surface exude the flippant, light attitude of pop, for example most songs are three minutes or under, below the shiny surface, they display brilliant musicianship and typify the notion of a ‘tight’ band.

Among their fans are respected indie artists which, have done well in the mainstream and include Franz Ferdinand (another incredibly accurate band) and Graham Coxon (a consummate musician). Judging by their celebrity fan base it’s easy to see what elements of their output have struck a chord, so to speak.

Another way in which they swerve the pop music genre and perhaps why they’ve not achieved a bigger fan base is their experimental and dare I say it, weird songs. The Monochrome Set formed in 1978 and had many incarnations with band members coming and going but, both albums, ‘Strange Boutique’ and ‘Love Zombies’ were made by the original line-up in 1980.

On two of the tracks on Strange Boutique there are no lyrics at all which, gives an insight into their priorities. Lyrics on both albums seem like an afterthought and provoke little reaction other than confused laughter. This is typified by songs such as, ‘The Man with the Black Moustache’ which, while a really well put together song is literally about a man with a black moustache and provides no insight into why they have decided to write a song about him, because he has a black moustache?! Come on guys, surely you can do better than that!

I was hoping for a change of tone in both albums but unfortunately there was no shade with the light and this failed to capture my attention. In fact one song, ‘Tomorrow Will Be Too Long’, reminded me of the theme tune to 90’s sit com, ‘One Foot in the Grave’ or a Chas and Dave song. And the title track ‘Love Zombies’ sounded like fairground music, albeit a spooky, haunted fairground but a fairground none the less.

If these albums were to be judged on the quality of the musicianship, the drummer being particularly noteworthy, then they would score highly but the lack of depth in their song writing marks them down. Also, if I’d heard these songs on the radio instead of alone, on a laptop during a pandemic perhaps I would be more forgiving of their silliness and as I’m not a musician, I find it hard to like them for musicianship alone, although I can admire it but from a safe two metres, with my arms crossed and a slow nod of appreciation.

The Monochrome Set: Love Zombies & Strange Boutique – Out Now (Tapete Records)

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When people ask me what music I am in to, I find it very hard to give a definitive answer because, throughout my life I have been in to all kinds of music from House to Heavy Metal. So I can safely say I am open to most things however, I would say that overall my allegiances lie with Electronic music because it covers so many genres and is constantly developing and changing. Having grown up in Manchester my musical tastes have been influenced by nights such as Electric Chair and Mr Scruff which encompasses the sounds of House, Detroit Techno, Disco, Soul, Funk and Hip Hop. As far as bands are concerned, I particularly like bands that are melodic and have a hook and a heart such as Wild Beasts. While living in London in the early noughties, I was also listening to music that didn’t really have a heart, more of a pacemaker. I was listening to Electroclash at nights such as Erol Alkan’s, Trash. I love writing about music and believe you can be honest about why you don’t like something without being disrespectful, a skill I am still learning in real life! But ultimately I understand that music needs to be experienced first, rather than intellectualised but why do one, when you can do both?