Review: Modern English – Soundtrack

History dictates that Modern English will forever be associated with ‘Melt With You’; a fine post-punk single but one which is chiefly famous for promoting a certain fast food establishment and being memorably covered by Nouvelle Vague. A crying shame, since their early forays produced the classic, gothic-flavoured ‘Mesh & Lace’ album back in 1981.

After that the law of diminishing returns appears to have applied with albums appearing less often and with less favourable reviews. ‘Soundtrack’ arrives with sleeve design from Vaughan Oliver (who created the iconic 4AD album sleeves back in the day) and Hugh Jones back on production duties, so everything is in place for a nostalgic trip to the early 1980’s. Well, it would be if anyone except frontman Robbie Grey had remained with the band. No matter, ‘Soundtrack’ is better than anyone could have reasonably expected.

‘It’s OK’ is a throwaway opener which – like its title – is passable post-punk pop but doesn’t represent the rest of the album. The considerably more worthwhile ‘Blister’ is full of wired intensity with Grey’s vocals sounding remarkably fresh. The album gets even better after this and the appropriately cinematic title track captures a sense of mystery and subtlety that was originally thought to have eluded them after their first album. Then comes the hugely impressive ‘Call Me’, a semi-grungy number that slowly escalates in urgency. Elsewhere there’s an uneasy contrast between poppy, jangly fare (‘Here Comes The Failure’, ‘Up Here In The Brain’) and the deadly serious (‘Bomb’, ‘The Lowdown’) before the band locate an admirable common ground on the emotive ‘Deep Sea Diver’ and ‘Fin’.

‘Soundtrack’ is by no means a perfect album but if I’d been told it had been recorded by men twenty years younger than the current Modern English band members, I would have believed it, such is the vigour and depth displayed here. More importantly, it re-establishes the reputation for the band just when it seemed they were reliant on that track for success.

Web Sites:
Modern English Official Site
Darla Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Clan Of Xymox, Danse Society

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