Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Reissue of The Monochrome Set's 'The Lost Weekend'

The Monochrome Set were still with Cherry Red when they cut what would be the final album of the first part of their career. Although the recordings were made on Cherry Red’s dime in 1983, the Warner Brothers subsidiary Blanco y Negro would not release the album until 1985. By that point, The Monochrome Set seemed to be winding down anyway, not doing much of anything in 1984. Those were not happy times for The Monochrome Set, though the LP released as The Lost Weekend is pretty jolly. The band was understandably frustrated by how their new label bungled the timing of their first single on it. “Jacob’s Ladder” was getting good radio play, but since the single was not in shops yet, the promotional engine pooped out before anyone could buy it. This is one of the odder points of the Lost Weekend story, since “Jacob’s Ladder”—a trivial fusion of Brit-Pop and gospel—hardly seems like the stuff hits are made of. The band would have done well to relinquish hopes for commercial success and keep the song’s original lyrics, which bandleader Bid says described intercourse in pornographic detail. So the track ends up sounding like a parody that never gets around to the joke.

Fortunately, The Monochrome Set’s unique humor is present throughout much of the rest of The Lost Weekend. Their pop craft is strong too, with wry nods to reggae (“Sugar Plum”), tango (“Cargo”), sixties dance craze discs (“The Twitch”, “Boom Boom”), fifties ballads (the hilarious “Letter from Viola”, which recounts the true story of the unflattering Mohawk haircut that cost guitarist James Foster his girlfriend), and psychedelia (the enchanting “Cowboy Country”).

The Lost Weekend ultimately landed back with Cherry Red, which put out an extended edition of the album in 2009. The bonus tracks are mostly instrumental B-sides, though “Le Boom Boom” is notable for being a superior mix (with added female vocals) of the LP’s “Boom Boom”. “Yo Ho Ho” is notable for being the only track The Monochrome Set recorded specifically for Blanco y Negro and for sounding suspiciously like John Cale’s “Ghost Ship”. Mat Smyth’s quiet remastering requires the listener to really crank it up. That’s a nice consideration in an age when too few engineers trust listeners to work the volume knobs on their stereos. Cherry Red has just reissued its 2009 edition of The Lost Weekend. Get it on here:

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