Tapete Records has one of the most befuddling business models going. The German label seems intent on cornering the market for current-day releases by occasionally loved but largely forgotten ’80s and ’90s Britpop cult acts. These reclamation projects have yielded some solid results – last year’s Bill Pritchard disc was a pleasant surprise. But there are at least as many misfires (Martin Carr remains in his post-Boo Radleys wilderness) and why bothers (Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, anyone?)
Enter the Monochrome Set, who’ve had a hard time staying away for long despite titling one of their albums Fin. Much like Ian McCulloch + Will Sergeant = Echo and the Bunnymen, any permutation including vocalist Bid and guitarist Lester Square can be fairly characterized as the Monochrome Set – even if backed by your granny on bongos, which wouldn’t be all that far-fetched a notion for this crew. The London quartet was about as arch as they came in the mid-80s, and were always defined by Bid’s droll lyrics and fey delivery. Those attributes are still in effect on Spaces Everywhere, if a tad less sharp.
Lester delivers one of his reverb-laden Duane Eddy riffs on opener “Iceman,” and “Oh, You’re Such a Star” has the insistent beat that defines much of the band’s best work while “Rain Check” and “When I Get to Hollywood” revisit their spin on English music hall ditties. However, there’s a serious sag in the album’s second half and while I’m fairly certain the ’70s arena clichés of “Avenue” are intended to be ironic, they’re painful nonetheless.
Even in their heyday the Monochrome Set were more of a singles band (the early anthology Volume Contrast Brilliance is the indisputable must-have in their catalog), the hit rate is simply lower here. Unfortunately, Bid also commits the Spinal Tap-esque sin of penning his own slag-off line: “Don’t go down that avenue/ It’s not the same place you once knew/ It’s gone.” But that’s too harsh – those who fondly remember the Monochrome Set will find a couple of keepers on Spaces Everywhere.
The Monochrome Set