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Modern English bring life to stage

Modern English bring life to stage

Post Punk/New Wave legends Modern English demonstrated their continued relevance, and greatness, three decades after their flirtation with one hit wonder-ism.

“I think you’ll know this one!” announced Modern English singer Robbie Grey just before launching the band into “I Melt With You,” to close out their set at The Radio Room in Greenville, SC. Of course, the audience knew that one, but what some who were in the audience didn’t know, and had learned by the time “I Melt With You” started playing, was that Modern English is, was, and always will be more than just a one hit wonder. Relying heavily upon songs off their first album Mesh & Lace (1981) which established the band as hard rocking entry into the New Wave/Post Punk movement, Modern English (currently comprised of four of their original members: Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell, Michael Conroy, and Stephen Walker) played a full on rocking set of crowd-pleasers and harder cuts. Modern English are touring in support of their excellent new album Take Me To The Trees (2016), which is a sort of return to form for the band that harkens their sound back to their earliest works, the aforementioned Mesh & Lace and 1982’s breakthrough After The Snow, which graced the world with their perennial 1980s throwback hit “I Melt With You.”

Flattening the nearly packed house with guitar riffs oscillating between droning graviton waves of sound and atmospheric clang, guitarist Gary McDowell proved that New Wave/Post Punk guitar playing can be just as interesting, and heavy, as the kids’ grunge tones can be. With songs like “Gathering Dust” off of Mesh & Lace and “Trees” off of Take Me to The Trees, Modern English demonstrates how they can drone almost as heavily, and airily, as their grunge successors. Their strength relies in their unique blend of guitar, bass, drum, and synth though, propelled by Grey’s near deadpan, but introspectively deceiving vocals and lyrics.

Like Grey’s lyrics, much of Modern English’s sound and songs, outside of their pop/rock leaning hit “I Melt With You,” borders on being Goth and rather dark. Grey’s stage presence though belies that there’s anything grim on his mind at the time he is delivering such dark and inward looking or, in some rare cases, apocalyptic, lyrics. Grey kissed the hands of the women pressed up against the stage and high-fived the guys. Smiling and talkative between songs, Grey bonded with the crowd, many of which were just young kids when they first heard a Modern English song, and were delighted that they were lucky enough that the band made it all the way to one of the best and most inviting live venues in Greenville, SC.

1980s nostalgia might be THE hot thing this year, with Stranger Things, the resurgence of 1980s bands in popularity, and retro-1980s styled films (like Thor: Ragnarok), but don’t count Modern English’s resurgence as part of this phenomena. Well, maybe it is a little. Stranger Things DID feature “I Melt With You”, but with Take Me to The Trees and their new tour, Modern English are demonstrating, each night that they play, that they are more than a one hit wonder from the 1980s. They’re a band with contemporary relevance.  

For Modern English Tour Date click here.
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Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.


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