The Monochrome have returned with their first album since 1995’s Trinity Road. Why is that, you might ask yourself? Singer and principal songwriter Bid had been busy recording and touring with Scarlet’s Well, but with an extensive tour already planned he suffered a hemorrhage in 2010 and spent a long time recovering in hospital. It was then he decided to instead concentrate his energy on the band that had made him a cult figure, and inspired many other groups since the 80’s. That band was The Monchrome Set, who decided to reform and take Scarlet’s Well’s place for the now rescheduled tour. While in hospital, Bid had already started writing for a new album which was recorded at the start of this year and released on their own revived Disquo Bleu label (the name was first used in 1979 to release an alternate version of their first single “He’s Frank” on Rough Trade).
The literal reference Platinum Coils makes to brain treatment sets the tone for most the album, which approaches the subject in both touching and humorous ways. Classic MS subject matter and style is obviously apparent in e.g. “Hip Kitten Spinning” and “Les Cowboys”. Some tracks seem equally suited to the more lilting Scarlet’s Well sound, e.g. “Cauchemar” and “Can’t Control My Feet” (in which Bid manages to rewrite “Concrete & Clay”). While the songwriting is strong as always, I feel some of the tracks suffer from the rather flat mixing that also made the 90’s Monochrome Set albums lose some of their punch. Lester Square is on fine form, and without caricaturing himself delivers his trademark sound and playing style. My favourite track “Waiting For Alberto” brings to mind the greatness of “Espresso” and the group’s Dindisc era. Hear it in the latest podcast. The album is available from Rough Trade and the official site, on cd only.