The Monochrome Set – Radio Sessions Marc Riley BBC 6 Music 2011-2022

The Monochrome Set somehow managed to have collected a series of live recordings spanning all their eras....
The Monochrome Set : Radio Sessions Marc Riley BBC 6 Music 2011-2022
9.4 Tapete
The Monochrome Set : Radio Sessions Marc Riley BBC 6 Music 2011-2022

The Monochrome Set, an annually touring band for most of the last 50 or so years, from the ‘70s to today’s record, AllHallowTide, which carries all their trademark charm and influence as true rock n’ rolling twentieth century prodigies, while twisting deeper into spirituality or ethics with more chanting (though they have always had some) and haunting harmonies (they have always had harmonies). Still, ‘post-art’ may be accurate, as they were cleverly playful and occasionally sardonic or ironic far over their contemporaries in Wire, or god forbid, the actual art of Primal Scream, Felt, The Style Council, or Ultra Vivid Scene. They did have some live releases that did fairly well including multiple final shows, and some plain pop goodness in the rhythms, plus some deep lyrics.

Most recently though, The Monochrome Set somehow managed to have collected a series of live recordings spanning all these eras, when few were available aside from television promos occasionally on the internet. When it comes to this, one must of course first address the conspicuously absent, but readily available to everyone who searches stores or the web, the classic “Peel Sessions”, which really were fantastic. Of course, that said they would in no way cover the most recent LPs as that show is sorely missed now, and in The Monochrome Set’s heyday, they were promoted to the Top of the Pops, which all the “new wave/post-art” bands were, and god that is some obnoxious labeling by this writer.

Settling on just touring till Bid gets bored every now and then, and hey, the guy’s a prince, maybe they can swing that lifestyle. AllHallowtide is a great enough album for any decade, including songs such as the actually happy, “Box of Sorrows”, the rough and tumble darkness of wilderness in “My Deep Shoreline”, the title track, extra catchy “The Ballad of the Flaming Man”, or the instrumental “Parapulie”.

Still, perhaps the best way to assert the validity of a live release in a post-John Peel world is to list the songs with a quick snippet if they work. The aforementioned title tracks are here such as “Eine Symphonie Des Grauens”, but oddly missing is the bands, wry “theme” (perhaps tongue in cheek) song “The Monochrome Set”. “Allhallowtide” is there though, but then, one must mention the full title, The Monochrome Set Radio Sessions (Marc Riley BBC6 Music 2011 to 2022), surely with all this talk of Peel, there’s a story there, right, and there is. With a really great appreciation of the effort to record the band by the former Cocteau Twins Promoter as well as The Sirens, The Lost Soul, The Fall, even Johnny Cash-tribute member, and then the cool introductions he helped with Massive Attack and Slug, but one, and certainly this writer, as alluded to when talking genres, likes self-awareness. Marc Riley on the other hand and the BBC producing this album screams mass media and The Fall or Cocteau Twins just scream a pain perhaps like Johnny Cash oddly.

What is worth noting is on the album’s Bandcamp description, whoever wrote it, where it describes the recordings of The Monochrome Set Radio Sessions (Marc Riley BBC6 Music 2011 to 2022), (and really please note that’s just the album recordings, the songs span the entire discography) is the description of radio shows as, and paraphrasing here, “performances based in live and studio elements”.

This is where going from “The Mouse Trap” and “Alphaville”, both twentieth century, guitar based hits to “Iceman” or “Fantasy Creatures”, both middling modern sounding singles, and ending with “Hello, Save Me”, “Really in the Wrong Town”, and finally the trio, “Le Chancon De La Pucell”, aforementioned “AllHallowTide”, and “Resplendent in Darkness”, all recently released symphonically orchestral pieces, actually works.

Still, also here are “They Call Me Silence”, “Cauchemar”, “Streams”, and “Hip Kitten Spinning Chrome”, from the phenomenally phenomenological, and spacey yet intriguing Platinum Coils, followed by “Super Plastic City”, “Rain Check”, “The Time I’ve Spent Doing Nothing”, “Lefty”, and “Strange Young Alien”(Super Plastic City); even “Cosmonaut”, fairly recent trippy psychedelia are all here, and certainly fitting for a radio show tribute release typecast.

As much as the instrumentation is best seen here and there on the sharp playing of the simple tracks, see “The Mouse Trap” or “Alphaville”, these songs work very well with a bass heavy approach, see “Hip Kitten Spinning Chrome” or “Resplendent in Darkness” allowing Bid’s vocals to shine with some soloing from all instruments, a TMS trademarks all bands ought to embrace, including modern bands.

Finally, in the middle area of the album list, middling tracks, “The Z Train”, “Stick Your Hand Up if You’re Louche”, “I Feel Fine(Really)”, “Fe’le” (SpacesEverywhere, Cosmonaut respectively) similarly of that era, “Mrs. Robot”, “Oh, Yes, I’m Going to Be in Your Dreams”, and “Maisieworld”, from Maisieworld, one might be tempted to grade these harshly, as mentioned though go song to song, and most are solid, even if these do share some live feel to them, they are also less hit-like, just no less well performed, take “Oh, Yes, I’m Going to Be in Your Dreams Tonight” as that eras best.

Then finishing the whole record with the acclaimed “The Jet Set Junta” civil unrest number, “Rest, Unquiet Spirit” and “Summer of Demons” from Fabula Medax, a second to final album released, they wrap it up as mentioned with “Resplendent in Darkness”, from AllHallowTide, and as the last performances ought to be the best, and so this number is good enough.

All being told, they just about nail it with what is really a cherry on top release for this well known a grouping. From the distinct charm of “Cauchemar”, art-rock of “Reach for Your Gun” or “The Mouse Trap”, to the driving heights of “Hip Kitten Spinning Chrome” or “Streams”; even career spanning hits “Allhallowtide” or “Alphaville” are all where this LP shines the most. This shows overall and overarchingly a band whose musicianship is always there and always based in attitude, performance, humility, and even spirituality, The Monochrome Set Radio Sessions (Marc Riley BBC6 Music (2011 to 2022), but whose performance is up to the listeners reception of material that speaks no matter how it is performed.

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