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Modern English

After the Snow [Bonus Tracks]

Format: CD   Release Date: 02/16/1999
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"I'll Melt With You" will forever be the one specific moment that's Modern English's place in pop history, but the album it came from, After the Snow, isn't anything to sneeze at. Indeed, in transforming from the quite fine but dour young miserabilists on Mesh Lace to a brighter incarnation that still had a melancholy side, the quintet found exactly the right combination best suited for their abilities. Like contemporaries B-Movie and the Sound, Modern English used punk and post-punk roots as a chance to introduce a haunting, beautiful take on romance and emotion, while the contributions of Stephen Walker on keyboard helped make the album both of its time and timeless. That said, the secret weapon on the album is the rhythm section of Michael Conroy and Richard Brown, able to shift from the polite but relentless tribal beat clatter on the excellent "Life in the Gladhouse" to the ever more intense punch of the title track, the album's unheralded masterpiece. None of this is to denigrate the contributions of singer Robbie Grey and guitarist Gary McDowell. The former's seemingly mannered singing actually shows a remarkable fluidity at points -- "After the Snow" again is a good reference point, as is the fraught, slow-burn epic "Dawn Chorus" -- while McDowell works around the band's various arrangements instead of trying to dominate them. Some songs like "Face of Wood" even find Modern English -- often dogged with Joy Division comparisons early on -- predicting where New Order would go before that band got there itself. Still, "I Melt With You" is the main reason most will want to investigate further. A perfect pop moment that didn't have to strain for it, its balance of giddy sentiment and heartfelt passion matched with a rush of acoustic and electric guitar overdubs (made even more accessible by a fine single remix with extra backing vocals, one of six bonus tracks on the 1992 reissue) just can't be beat. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

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