Feeling excited about watching television in black and white on a Saturday evening in Lambres les Douai could be considered as a very strange disease, like feeling nostalgic about all that awful variety TV shows of the seventies, a monomania like enjoying the complete collection of the German series Inspector Derrick in VHS tape. Yes, right, but Monochrome Set and black and white TV are not exactly the same thing…If you talk about music, you can think of one of the best and amazing bands of its generation, always ahead, never in the right time, in the right place, and shamefully ignored. Even this review is late.
Well it’s no more the same plan, suddenly It’s no more black and white 70’s TV… It’s about a gig of one of the most underrated bands of all time in pop history, even when we’re talking about a band which could have been an influence for the Smiths themselves. If you really want to know the way Morrissey has found his very special vocal style, maybe you should start by learning the Monochrome Set history from the beginning. The Monochrome set believed in their own history, with a complete faith in their music and despair and they started to believe in again and dropped dead, gutted by the lack of success and they’re back in the loop. In his brilliant article about the band, Thierry Margerin tells how a band, full of talent, creative, audacious, never met a large audience. But the Monochrome set has fans, real fans, diehard fans, who can work and sweat to make the dream come true: the Monochrome set, live, in Lambres les Douai. They are the real Unsung heroes of Rock’n’roll to quote Nick Tosches’ book title: Flup Cola and BlackGirl who have their own radio show on Radio Scarpe Sensée called Baroque Bordello. They’ve been really involved, heart and soul, in the crazy project. And in the same time, there’s a new brilliant album, Super Plastic city…Flup and Blackgirl did it.
The gig begins and because nothing never happens the usual way with the Monochrome, Lester, the very brilliant guitarist, is not there. He’s in hospital for a broken leg and it happened two days before! Bid von Bid (Ganesh in the “real” life), is wearing a very classy Indian tunic and he plays in a very sober and reserved way his magic chords. The set list is brilliant and your mind can’t stop working… Why didn’t this song have the same success as Shine by The House of Love, as any Smiths single, as La’s arpeggios of There she goes, as the elegant chord patterns of the Pale Fountains, the illuminated pop of Aztec Camera or Orange Juice? Why haven’t these very light Indian accents’ songs been critically acclaimed like Brimful of Asha by the Cornershop?
Magic, intense, British, sober. You can feel a bit desperate to think than this awesome music has been sold in the second hand and discount record shops. Anyway, we were there, at the first row of a very precious gig, precious like a secret: there’s a band whose entire music you can listen to, enjoy several months, being delighted with refreshed ears which were sleeping… Bid is absolutely not show-off, it’s all about music. Strictly. Andy Warren plays elegant bass lines, rounded, bouncing everywhere, in a very dynamic style. Wouldn’t be a surprise to know that maybe Smiths’ Andy Rourke has heard these ones before. Suddenly, Steve Brummell stops playing the drums and comes in front of the stage to shoot photos! John Paul Moran was smiling, looking at him. Very beautiful moment in a way. There’s nothing too much serious with the band, everyone has a job and the Monochrome became a fantastic “hobby”. Everything has been said about fame and success; it’s no more a subject. Let’s play. Forget the glory train, it’s gone, who cares?
As said by Thierry Margerin, « These guys had everything, The look, humour and overall, a SOUND: a wonderful combination of synthesis and intelligence, their style is still absolutely unique in Britsh pop history.”
Read the brilliant lyrics of Time I’ve spent doin nothing,’ very English, languid, with a boredom feeling and you’ll understand. You can start via Black and White minstrels, Rough trade years compilation, or by the last LP, or… by Strange Boutique or by…Love Zombies.
After this very distinguished show, without an inch of make-up, the Monochrome changed the name of the city into Super Plastic city, sprinkled with golden arpeggios, reflected in the audience’s eyes. They had very dilated pupils by the band’s LSD, The Lighter Side of Dating, one of their best song. Have a trip.