British post-punk band Modern English quickly became a flagship act for the nascent 4AD Records. They would also give the label its first international hit record, 1982’s endearing and enduring single, “I Melt With You”. Debut Mesh & Lace and its follow-up After The Snow have recently been reissued by Blixa Sounds and feature new Vaughan Oliver-designed sleeves and expanded track listings taken from 4AD’s 1992 reissues.
1981’s Mesh & Lace is a dark, dreary affair. Though 4AD would soon become a player in the post-punk sound, the young band took its cues from Factory Records. A Joy Division influence can be heard throughout, sometimes to its detriment, especially on “Grief” and “A Viable Commercial”. One can also hear hints of The Cure in “Smiles And Laughter” and “Swans On Glass”. Yet in spite of the derivative nature of some of the material, Mesh & Lace demonstrates great potential. Opening track “Gathering Dust” is still one of the band’s finest moments, a classic post-punk stomper.
After The Snow, however, was a completely different story. Aside from the opening “Someone’s Calling”–a blatant rewrite of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”–Modern English had found their own style, a hybrid of the darker post-punk of Mesh & Lace with a New Wave sensibility. Of course, the album’s appeal is “I Melt With You,” an upbeat number now considered one of the definitive tracks of the decade. Thankfully, it wasn’t alone in terms of quality. Title track “After The Snow” balanced melancholy with a catchy melody. “Life In The Gladhouse” found them deftly transforming their darker elements into a catchy dance number. Even the derivative “Someone’s Calling” is pure pop perfection. After The Snow may have contained a one-hit wonder, but the rest of the album is of equally high quality.
Modern English would remain with 4AD for one more album, 1984’s masterpiece Ricochet Days, and would release a fourth album, 1986’s Stop Start, before disbanding. (Rumors abound that Blixa Sound plans to reissue them both, and we hope so!) Though they would break up and reconvene over the next few decades, “I Melt With You” continued to keep them alive. But they’re no nostalgia act; since 2010, they’ve been an active band, releasing two albums to critical acclaim. These two reissues show why their continued existence is a good thing, as both are superb albums from that era.
Ed. note–we would be remiss if we didn’t point out the somewhat bittersweet yet ironic reality of these reissues; legendary artist Vaughan Oliver began his career with the sleeve to Modern English’s 1980 single “Gathering Dust,” and concluded his lifetime of distinctive work with these two releases. RIP Vaughan.
Purchase: Mesh & Lace / After The Snow