THE MONOCHROME SET + JETSTREAM PONY – CON CLUB, LEWES 12.3.22
There’s a very healthy turn-out at The Con Club which bodes well for The Monochrome Set’s appearance at the venue. A goodly proportion of the crowd take in local band and support Jetstream Pony who kick in with a good set. There are a number of sweet spots to be found across post-punk pop and the band knows where to find them and how to deliver them. Pre-dance Factory basslines combine with thrilling drums, buzzsaw guitar and cool vocals from both lead Beth and bassist Kerry.
Opener ‘Seven Days’ confirms the band’s pedigree and one song after another, mostly drawn from their self-titled LP, consistently provide melody, rhythm and excitement. Shaun swaps between Fender and Danelectro six-strings to display delightful variants upon the aforementioned buzzsaw guitar. Eager ears may think back to his early service with The Wedding Present although they may be surprised to learn that, at that point in time, he played the drums.
‘Trapped In Amber’ and ‘I Close My Eyes’ are significant successes and, by the end of the set, elements within the audience are dancing with enthusiasm. Stand in drummer Tony Bryant (ex Popguns) consistent and inventive work is crucial to this success. ‘Closer Had Enough’ is crowd-pleasing material and the only thing that suggests that the band has not yet fully embraced its place within the business called show is the diffident inter-song banter. Check out a very healthy Bandcamp page, ideally on the first Friday of April.
Jetstream Pony tonight were:
Beth Arzy – vocals, tambourine
Shaun Charman – guitars, backing vocals
Kerry Boettcher – bass, vocals
Tony Bryant – drums
Jetstream Pony setlist:
‘Seven Days’ (from 2021 ‘Misplaced Words’ mini album)
‘Courses For Obstacles’ (from 2021 ‘Misplaced Words’ mini album)
‘It’s Fine’ (from 2020 ‘Jetstream Pony’ album)
‘It’ll Take More Than a Friday’ (from 2020 ‘Jetstream Pony’ album)
‘Behind The Eyes’ (from 2021 ‘Misplaced Words’ mini album)
‘Trapped In Amber’ (from 2020 ‘Jetstream Pony’ album)
‘I Close My Eyes’ (from 2020 ‘Jetstream Pony’ album)
‘Strood McD F.C.’ (from 2021 ‘Misplaced Words’ mini album)
‘Self-Destruct Reality’ (from 2018 ‘Self-Destruct Reality’ EP)
‘If Not Now, When?’ (from 2020 ‘If Not Now, When?’ / ‘Yellow Pills’ single)
‘Had Enough’ (from 2017 ‘Like You Less’ / ‘Had Enough’ single)
Jetstream Pony are on Facebook.
The Monochrome Set make a telling point with their opening two songs: ‘Super Plastic City’ (from the 2013 album of the same name) and ‘The Jet Set Junta’ (single and opening song from their third album ‘Eligible Bachelors’). It is that they are a group for the ages and can choose to play perfect pop songs from across all points in their 40-year plus career. The third song, ‘Alphaville’ from their 1978 debut single, clinches the argument with an almost insolent ease.
As a group with a magnificent back catalogue, The Monochrome Set are entitled to be supremely confident in their approach. Their confidence is primarily demonstrated through the music itself. Frontman Bid exhibits a certain personal reserve despite the exciting music he is playing. For example, his between-song chat is clipped and oblique for the majority of the set. Nonetheless, he is capable of dealing very firmly with one unfortunate heckler in two words of short shrift.
The delivery of each song is spot-on. Hints of garage-punk relentlessness are leavened by either the sweetness of Country music or by a Spaghetti-western twang. There is a cinematic undertow to songs which occasionally seems to tickle Bid’s fancy. There is every indication he enjoys the group’s performance as much as the audience. It is also very good to be able to report on the current health of the group’s music. A particular highlight of the set emerged with ‘Hello, Save Me’ from the new album ‘Allhallowtide’. (Out as recently as 11th March on Tapete Records and on the group’s Bandcamp page.)
When singing, Bid is a communicative presence. He can croon and he can belt out a number with elan. He appears to suggest at one point that his singing voice is improved by the drink he is sipping, but that there may be the risk of a corresponding deterioration in his guitar-playing. The latter does not prove to be the case.
Bassist Andy Warren has been in The Monochrome Set since the second year of their existence. There is a certain dislocation between his quiet, almost detached, presence on the stage and the excitement of his playing which continues to be masterful and essential to the success of the group’s sound.
Drummer Mike Urban’s sensitive and thoroughgoing pummelling of his kit has graced the band both in the 1990s and in its current iteration. His enthusiasm and enjoyment of proceedings from the opening song provides an attractive counterbalance to the cooler demeanours of Bid and Warren. Plus Urban has a rare talent in being able to play the cowbell not merely for comic effect. Keyboardist Athen Ayren appears to have joined the band for the recording of ‘Allhallowtide’ and fills out the group’s sound very confidently. Her keyboards range across subtle synthesizer textures to bracing fairground organ and her contributions enjoy a genuine interplay with Bid’s guitar.
The Monochrome Set are a cracking band live. Whilst they possess a genuine joy in their material from back in the day and can charge through it with an unruly and unbridled musical enthusiasm, they have the confidence (and, it must be said again and again, the songs) to select material from across their whole career. ‘I Feel Fine (Really)’, ‘Waiting For Alberto’, ‘B-I-D Spells Bid’ and ‘Jack’ turn the middle-part of the set into a triumphal progress.
Following another fine sequence of songs ‘La Chanson De La Pucelle’, ‘Cowboy Country’ and ‘Mrs Robot’, by the time the set-closer ‘Eine Symphonie Des Grauens’ comes along, the audience is in a good place. They’ve received a master-class in how a group can transcend its own influences and become an original artefact and significant influence in its own right.
The encore is simple and perfect leading with the song itself ‘The Monochrome Set (I Presume)’. However, its relentless delivery appears to produce cramp in Bid’s left hand and fingers with a resulting increase in onstage chat as he seeks to recover. Indeed, the audience is invited to suggest what they would like to hear next. Shouts for obscurities are deflated as Bid recovers and advises us of the group’s service ethic. We’re going to hear what they’ve prepared for us and it’s ‘He’s Frank’, again from the debut single and magnificent stuff with which to end the performance.
Whilst that first single remains impeccable, The Monochrome Set are a 16-album strong group now and, across that treasure trove of wit and melody, they have created a body of work that all groups might envy and that precious few can equal. Very happily, as the Con Club’s audience was privileged to witness, The Monochrome Set can play it live as well.
The Monochrome Set are:
Ganesh Seshadri aka Bid – vocals/guitar
Andy Warren – bass
Mike Urban – drums
Athen Ayren – keyboards
The Monochrome Set setlist:
‘Super Plastic City’ (from 2013 ‘Super Plastic City’ album)
‘The Jet Set Junta’ (from 1982 ‘Eligible Bachelors’ album)
‘Alphaville’ (from 1983 ‘Volume, Contrast, Brilliance… (Sessions & Singles Vol. 1)’ album)
‘Summer Of The Demon’ (from 2019 ‘Fabula Mendax’ album)
‘I Feel Fine (Really)’ (from 2018 ‘Maisieworld’ album)
‘Waiting For Alberto’ (from 2012 ‘Platinum Coils’ album)
‘B-I-D Spells Bid’ (from 1980 ‘Love Zombies’ album)
‘Jack’ (from 1991 ‘Jack’ album)
‘Rest, Unquiet Spirit’ (from 2019 ‘Fabula Mendax’ album)
‘Really In The Wrong Town’ (from 2022 ‘Allhallowtide’ album)
‘Ruling Class’ (from 1983 ‘Volume, Contrast, Brilliance… (Sessions & Singles Vol. 1)’ album)
‘Hello, Save Me’ (from 2022 ‘Allhallowtide’ album)
‘La Chanson De La Pucelle’ (from 2019 ‘Fabula Mendax’ album)
‘Cowboy Country’ (from 1985 ‘The Lost Weekend’ album)
‘Mrs Robot’ (from 2018 ‘Maisieworld’ album)
‘Love Goes Down The Drain’ (from 1980 ‘Strange Boutique’ album)
‘Eine Symphonie Des Grauens’ (from 1983 ‘Volume, Contrast, Brilliance… (Sessions & Singles Vol. 1)’ album)
‘The Monochrome Set (I Presume)’ (from 1980 ‘Strange Boutique’ album)
‘He’s Frank’ (from 1983 ‘Volume, Contrast, Brilliance… (Sessions & Singles Vol. 1)’ album)
Find out more at www.themonochromeset.co.uk