The Monochrome Set M-80

The Monochrome Set M-80
7
This is one of those DVDs whose very existence is a surprise. In terms of profile, Anglo post-punkers the Monochrome Set were, at best, B-listers, the kind of band John Peel would love without them ever threatening commercial success. Given that, this appearance of a live DVD taken from Marathon 80 (a 1979 Minneapolis festival also featuring the likes of Suicide, the Contortions and Tuxedo Moon) is rather unexpected. Still, the recently reformed band is about to tour the U.S. for the first time in 30 years, so the timing may be fortuitous. The filming of their performance is certainly low budget and lo-fi (their visual guy was too sick to assist at the fest), but that rather suits their quirky, angular, sparse sound. It is the earliest live footage of the group in existence and it does capture their up-tempo energy. Along with deadpan vocals, there'ss a sense of humour and a Euro-cabaret-inflected sensibility in their work (two tunes here are entitled "Ein Symphonie Des Grauens" and "Ici Les Enfants") that was refreshing amidst the oft-gloomy sound of late '70s England. The melodic charms of cuts like speedy instrumental "Lester Leaps In" and "He's Frank" retain their appeal, while they rip through 18 short and snappy tunes in just 50 minutes. As their choice of moniker suggests, the Monochrome Set are rather one-dimensional, but it's a fun one at least. (Weinerworld / MVD)