Learning Modern English

I like when personal taste champions over popular opinion. There is just something endearing about a person who loves something more than most people could understand. Perhaps everyone has that album that they love so unabashedly it isn’t even that possible to describe because it moves beyond critical acclaim or popularity – it becomes personal. The 1982 Modern English album After the Snow is that album for me. It has long been a favourite of mine ever since the day I decided to take a gamble buying the CD in a bargain bin at my local record store. It’s an album I champion as something everyone should listen to, and yet no one does.

After the Snow is Modern English’s sophomore album. 4AD fans will remember their first album Mesh & Lace as well, but it was something entirely different. Where there was more ‘noise’ on their first go, an ethereal beast seemed to have emerged the second time round. They by no means lost their complexity, but there was a feeling of a story this time. The band clearly took the time to build sounds (‘Face of Wood’) and try unusual sounds different from any of their contemporaries (‘Carry Me Down’).

Then there was the single of all singles.

“I Melt With You” is perhaps one of the biggest hits of the 80s. In the States, it’s the single that made them One-hit Wonders (it made it to #7 on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart). It’s easy to see why it was so popular, it’s just one of those perfect pop songs encased in the shell of New Wave sound. This song is fantastic, really fantastic. Just LISTEN to it:

But how do you compete when you’re first big song is one that will be remembered as one of the greatest even decades later? Quite a lot of talented bands never made it past their swan song despite being ridiculously talented. This was something always noticeable when going to the US to the UK (and vise versa). In the land of the Brits bands like Madness, Dexy’s and Flock of Seagulls lived beyond their hit singles. Country of origin probably mattered a lot more then than in the modern days of instant search engine bands.

Modern English had plenty of success outside of “I Melt With You”, mostly in the UK Indie Charts where the both albums before and after After the Snow reached #5. They broke up in twice, but still tour regularly with an occasional album. Part of me really wants to see them reach the respect they deserve in the States, but it will never happen. So for now, I will cling on to all four copies I have of After the Snow and keep carrying on with my evangelism.

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