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Monochrome Set - (with the Hepburns and Karen), Thunderbolt, Bristol, 17/3/2018

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 10 / 5 / 2018

Monochrome Set - (with the Hepburns and Karen), Thunderbolt, Bristol, 17/3/2018


Dixie Ernill watches the Monochrome Set and Karen bookend a fine evening of skewed indie on a wintry night in Bristol.

It’s fairly normal to have a local band open proceedings to ensure that there is a reasonable crowd in, but when the local band is as good as Karen, it does rather detract from the main event. Karen may be a newish band in terms of releases (tonight they are promoting only their third release, the rather wonderful ‘Filwood Broadway’ EP), but they have been honing their skills for close to 4 years and with a personnel that boasts probably in excess of 70 years of playing in bands across its three members, they are certainly no strangers to the live arena. In frontman Davey Woodward they have one of indie music’s elder statesmen, whose ability to marry catchy tunes with insightful vignettes of the struggles and triumphs of everyday life remains undimmed and if anything more focussed than ever. He’s backed up by Tom Adams’ excellent stick work and Hugo Morgan who makes bass playing look effortlessly cool. Together they perform a punchy seven song set with not an ounce of fat on it. All four songs from the new EP are included along with previous singles, ‘Ocean’ and “Estuary”. Classic in waiting 'Too Late' more than makes up the numbers. There’s a nod to Lou Reed here, a tip of the hat to Postcard there and even a ‘G’day’ to the Go-Betweens, but in truth Karen are their own band and sooner or later the music world will cotton on and Davey Woodward will achieve the kind of recognition in this country that Robert Forster receives in Australia. I feel sorry for the Hepburns trying to follow Karen. Their songs are melodic enough, but lack that certain something that the opening act has in spades. So, on to headliners The Monochrome Set, who have attracted a decent following within the crowd despite being away from their London roots and with the weather being somewhat wintry to boot. They’re been around for forty years, but singer, Bid, still has an impressive head of hair (not the long flowing locks of yore, but significantly more than most in the crowd) and a distinctive vocal that has a slight resemblance to Morrissey in places. The set is drawn from right across their reign, but with a healthy leaning toward recently released (and mighty fine) album ‘Maisieworld’ from which 4 tracks are taken – ‘Oh, Yes, I’m Going to Be in Your Dreams Tonight’, ‘I Feel Fine (Really)’, ‘Mrs Robot’ and the title track. Strangely, a couple of the strongest tracks ‘Give Me Your Youth’ and ‘Don’t Wear That Look’ have been saved for another day. There is also a good showing from ‘Eligible Bachelors’, arguably the best of their early albums, with the jaunty ‘The Ruling Class’, ‘The Jet Set Junta’ and ‘The Mating Game’, which comes towards the end of the set, all being warmly received. Whilst the Monochrome Set are probably still seen as post-punk experimentalists, the truth is they have released more studio albums in the last 6 years than they did in the whole of the 80’s. The fact that early gems like ‘Alphaville’ and ‘Love Goes Down the Drain’ effortlessly rub shoulders with more recent cuts ‘Super Plastic City’ and ‘Waiting For Alberto’ highlights that the band still have much to offer. The set finishes with ‘Eine Symphonic Des Grauens’, the band’s fourth single from back in 1979, followed by encores of ‘He’s Frank’ and then ‘Fat Fun’. Sadly, there’s no place for personal favourite ‘Goodbye Joe’, but that’s only a minor gripe on a memorable evening.

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Monochrome Set - (with the Hepburns and Karen), Thunderbolt, Bristol, 17/3/2018

Monochrome Set - (with the Hepburns and Karen), Thunderbolt, Bristol, 17/3/2018

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Eclectic and enigmatic, the UK's Monochrome Set have been the focus of many legends and myths. Tommy Gunnarsson speaks to its ironic and teasing frontman Bid about the group's twenty year history

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