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Compendium - A History, 1979-1995

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Album Review

Another in a seemingly endless series of Monochrome Set collections, Compendium: A History 1979-1995 does a good job of highlighting the band's two phases on one disc. The first ten songs spotlight the band in the 1980s when their retro-futurist guitar sound was literally like nothing else in the new wave and punk scenes. Every one of these ten tracks from that period is a complete gem (including "Eine Symphonie des Grauens" and the British hit single "Jacob's Ladder"). In their second phase starting in 1990, the band became musically more conventional but continued to write and record strong songs. Bid, the group's singer and lyricist, is known for his dark, twisted sense of humor but on Compendium many of the later songs where he opens up emotionally are featured. "Up" and "Milk and Honey" both deal truthfully with hope and despair while "Christine" and "I Love Lambeth" use puns to arrive at heartfelt emotional truth. The Monochrome Set are rightly considered one of the finest, sadly neglected bands of the 1980s, but this collection shows that the quality of their later work didn't change half as drastically as their critical reputation did.


Formed: 1978

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '10s

When the British art school punk band the B-Sides changed their name and direction to become Adam & the Ants, guitarist/vocalist Bid and guitarist Lester Square opted out to form their own group, the Monochrome Set. Founded in London in 1978, the band (also comprising ex-Gloria Mundi and Mean Street bassist Jeremy Harrington and former Art Attacks drummer J.D. Crowe) was quickly snapped up by the Rough Trade label, and during 1979 issued three singles -- "He's Frank," "Eine Symphonie des Grauens,"...
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Compendium - A History, 1979-1995, The Monochrome Set
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