For a group proud of “not being a singles band”, this 25-track compilation of all their singles for Cherry Red and four other labels sure proves otherwise. This was The Monochrome Set, after all, where contradictions rode tandem with their post-punk guitar rock, separating them from the pomp of their new romantic peers.
Formed at The Hornsey School Of Art, the Set’s songs were filled with eccentricities and performed by a shifting line-up of pseudonymous bandmembers (including, briefly, Stuart Goddard, later Adam of The Ants). Most of the material came from the combined talents of bassist Marc Warren, principal songwriter and singer Bid and guitarist Lester Square. Their first singles on Rough Trade, He’s Frank and Alphaville, are typified by simple, effective guitar riffs, and Bid’s almost Gregorian-meets-Iggy Pop vocals. Eine Symphonie Des Grauens shows art school ideas began to creep in, while Lester Leaps In is a wonderful XTC-esque instrumental. The Cherry Red releases only get better, from Forever Young, to the almost pastoral folk of I Love Lambeth and Closing Time, from their 1995 reformation.
This is an impressive compilation, capturing a band who always existed just below the mainstream radar, yet were more prolific, pioneering and inventive than most of their contemporaries.