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Modern English (band)

Modern English
Modern English in 2011
Background information
Also known as The Lepers
Origin Colchester, Essex, England
Genres New wave
Years active 1979–87, 1989–91, 1995–present
Labels 4AD, Sire, TVT, Darla
Associated acts This Mortal Coil

Modern English are an English new wave band best remembered for their songs "I Melt with You", "Hands Across the Sea", and "Ink and Paper". The group disbanded twice, in 1987 and 1991,[1] but reunited again in 1995.


  • History 1
  • Band members 2
  • Discography 3
    • Singles 3.1
    • Studio albums 3.2
    • Compilations 3.3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Formed in Colchester, Essex, England, in 1979 by Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals),[2] Modern English were originally known as The Lepers. The group expanded to "Modern English" when Richard Brown (drums) and Stephen Walker (keyboards)[2] were subsequently added to the lineup of the band.[1][2]

After a single on their own 'Limp' label (not to be confused with America's Limp Records) in 1979, the band signed to 4AD the following year, with two further singles released, and a session for John Peel of BBC Radio 1 recorded before the band's debut album, Mesh & Lace, in 1981, the band in the early days showing a strong Joy Division influence.[3] A second Peel session was recorded in October 1981. The follow-up, After The Snow (April 1982), was more keyboard-oriented and was compared to Simple Minds and Duran Duran.[3] It was also released in the United States by Sire Records the following year, where it reached number 70 on the Billboard chart, and sold over 500,000 copies.[1][3] Grey said of the album, "We used to think 'God, we'll never make a pop record. We're artists!', but things don't always turn out as you planned and when you actually create a pop record, it's so much more of a thrill than anything else".[4] The second single from the album was also a hit in the US, the jangly "I Melt With You" reaching number 76.[3] When he reviewed the album, Johnny Waller of Sounds described the track as "A dreamy, creamy celebration of love and lust, which deserves to be showcased on as 12" single all by itself, with no b-side", while his colleague Tony Mitchell described it as "suburban amateurism at its most unrewarding".[4] The band relocated to New York City and worked on a third album, Ricochet Days, which again made the top 100 in the US, after which the band left 4AD and were solely signed to Sire outside the UK and Canada.[3] The album Stop Start (1986) was the last record Modern English record released by Sire, with the band splitting up after its release. During 1983–84 time Grey, McDowell and Conroy were also involved with This Mortal Coil.[3]

Robbie Grey reformed Modern English in 1989 with Mick Conroy and Aaron Davidson to record new album, Pillow Lips, released in 1990 on the American TVT label.[3] The album featured a re-recorded "I Melt With You", which was released as a single, and saw the band again in the Billboard top 100.[3] The band split up for a second time in 1991, after contractual problems with TVT, with Grey forming Engine. In 1995, with the legal issues with TVT sorted out, Engine evolved into the next incarnation of Modern English and signed to the Imago label, with Grey and Matthew Shipley (keyboards). This lineup recorded the 1996 album Everything's Mad.[3]

Robbie Grey toured the US with a new Modern English lineup from 1998–2002 and travelled coast to coast across the US and recorded a new album with Hugh Jones (producer of earlier Modern English records). The songs written with guitarist Steven Walker (not to be confused with the band's original keyboardist) and including Matthew Shipley came together on the road and back home in London between tours. After a few years on the shelf this collection of songs, entitled Soundtrack, was released on May 24, 2010 on Darla, with Jon Solomon on drums.

Also in 2010, the original lineup of the band reformed (minus drummer Richard Brown) and toured the US in July and September 2010 and the UK and Paris June 2011. They were invited by film director Mark Pellington to re-record "I Melt With You" for his movie of the same name. The current reformed line up of the band includes original members Robbie Grey, Mick Conroy, Gary McDowell, and Stephen Walker, augmented by Roy Martin on drums. They have recorded a new album which is currently being funded via Pledge with a planned March 2016 release.[5] The album has been recorded, produced and mixed by Martyn Young from Colourbox and MARRS who also adds additional keyboards. They will also be touring the Mesh & Lace album in the U.S. in 2016.

Band members

Members of Modern English at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ, August 2013
A man singing
Robbie Grey 
A man playing an electric bass guitar
Gary McDowell 
A man playing an electric guitar
Michael Conroy 
A man playing keyboards
Stephen Walker 



Title Year Label UK Indie Chart[6] US Chart[3]
"Drowning Man" 1979 4AD
"Swans on Glass" 1980 46
"Gathering Dust" 36
"Smiles and Laughter" 1981 16
"Life in the Glad House (12" Club Mix)" 1982 26
"I Melt with You" 18 76
"Someone's Calling" 1983 43
"Chapter 12" 1984 15
"Hands Across the Sea" 91
"Ink and Paper" 1986 Sire
"I Melt with You (re-recorded)" 1990 TVT 76
"Life's Rich Tapestry" 1990 TVT
"Beautiful People" 1990 TVT
"It's OK" 2010 Darla
"Blister" 2010 Darla

Studio albums

Title Year Label UK Indie Chart US Chart
Mesh & Lace 1981 4AD 5
After the Snow 1982 13 78
Ricochet Days 1984 5 93
Stop Start 1986/2010 Sire
Pillow Lips 1990 TVT
Everything's Mad 1996/2007 Imago
Soundtrack 2010 Darla


  • Life in the Gladhouse, 1980–1984: Best of Modern English (2001) 4AD


  1. ^ a b c "allmusic ((( Modern English > Biography )))" (bio page), allmusic, 2008, webpage: allmusic-ME-bio.
  2. ^ a b c "Mesh & Lace - Modern English - VIVID.PL" (album notes) VIVID.PL, 2007, webpage: Viv.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p.423-424
  4. ^ a b Gimarc, George (2005) Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970–1982, Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-848-6, p.600, 636.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997) "Indie Hits 1980–1989", Cherry Red Books, ISBN 0-9517206-9-4

External links

  • Official Web Site
  • Modern English at Beggars Group
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