The Monochrome Set – Spaces Everywhere


The Monochrome Set – Spaces Everywhere

You probably haven’t ever heard of The Monochrome Set. Formed in north London in around 1978, their first single “He’s Frank” was released on Rough Trade in 1979 and throughout the first half of the 1980s they maintained a respectful distance from the onslaught of trends afflicting indie music throughout that time. Given that their earliest line-ups included Adam Ant and (unless I am told differently) the same Charlie Harper who went on to chart success with mainstream punks the UK Subs, you could have forgiven The Monochrome Set for quietly packing their instruments away and going off and getting proper jobs. Not so.

Unaffected by the whims of the music industry and retaining a determinedly indie ethos, The Monochrome Set gained a niche entirely their own among the hundreds of other post-punk and actual punk bands of three and a half decades ago, regardless of whether anyone was even listening to their music.

The story of The Monochrome Set is a lengthy one, and their Wikipedia page isn’t just interesting reading, it is just about essential for anyone wanting to understand the existence of Spaces Everywhere. I was a little surprised to get the album. Had anyone asked me about them I would have said something like ‘they broke up in the mid 80s.’ But retaining that determinedly indie ethos has led to several reunions and releases since then and Spaces Everywhere is in fact their 12th album, continuing a tradition that began in a north London college in the late 1970s and very definitely isn’t over yet.

If mainstream success has continued to elude them, The Monochrome Set seem untouched by their experience. Right from the opening chords of first track “Iceman” all the hallmarks of a classically old-schooled indie band are present, to a point where Spaces Everywhere could find itself described as The Monochrome Set’s lost 1988 masterpiece. Fast-paced rhythms, sharply achieved melodies, quotable and archly humorous lyrics, The Monochrome Set in their heyday were the band most obviously enjoying a private joke at their audiences expense (see the “Jacob’s Ladder” video for evidence) and they’ve lost none of their intellectual glee in the three decades between that song and their latest witticisms. Whilst some listeners might find their relentless tomfoolery mildly wearing, if nothing else they deserve the regard that is reserved for those indie survivors whose guitars and words have retained their various abilities. “Don’t go down that avenue / It’s not the same place you once knew,” sings frontman Bid on third track “Avenue,” but little of substance has altered in The Monochrome Set’s world, at least in terms of their music.

Spaces Everywhere is exactly what most people think indie music sounds or sounded like in its vinyl heyday. And it says something about The Monochrome Set that while they haven’t ever received the sort of recognition that so many of their contemporaries eventually found – and the only band in any way similar to them and still performing are the also more-obscure-than-they-should-be Nightingales – but if anything this has only made them only more determined to slide noisily into even further obscurity, grinning with maniacal optimism as they do so. Spaces Everywhere is a deliriously upbeat 40 or so minutes of quality indie guitar music and The Monochrome Set continue to await your recognition.

Tapete Records