Essential New Music: The Monochrome Set’s “Volume, Contrast, Brilliance … Unreleased & Rare Vol. 2”


1978-era arty Brit-post-punks the Monochrome Set—clanging guitarist Lester Square and nasal vocalist Bid—should’ve been contenders. Their Muswell Hillbillies-era Ray Davies meets Arctic Monkeys quirk was their trump card, and their downfall as listeners often found them to be just too goofy. This collection of previously unreleased and rare morsels recorded between 1978 and 1991 reveal just what you missed: the funky jitter of “I Want Your Skin,” the Carnaby Street crust of “Cilla Black.”

One neat rarity is the band’s version of linear pop. “Something About You” is a long, weirdly carefree and breezy cut for a group so famously neurotic, a soundalike to the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” without the snark. Not so long ago, the Set played its first U.S. gig in more than 30 years. Here’s hoping the band sticks around to make more not-so-rarities.

—A.D. Amorosi