In my last post, I talked about one of the (real) American one-hit wonders of the 80s – the Guildford, England band, The Vapors, and how it’s sad they are only known for their one big, great hit, and that they were really much more than the one-hit wonder name they became known for.
Situated about 100 miles Northeast of Guildford is Colchester, England, the hometown of Modern English, another memorable New Wave band with a number of albums and singles but primarily known for their one big, great hit, “I Melt With You.”
Modern English was formed in 1979 and signed to one of my all-time favorite record labels, 4AD, the following year. Influenced by Joy Division (as many bands were in the early 80s), Modern English released their first album in 1981, MESH & LACE. It was well-received, and one of the band’s singles that year, “Smiles And Laughter” (which appeared on the CD version of MESH & LACE), reached No. 16 on the U.K. Indie singles chart.
The following year, their second album, 1982’s AFTER THE SNOW, was the first of three albums released on my all-time favorite record label, Sire Records, here in the United States. That album reached No. 78 on BILLBOARD’s album chart and gave the band their biggest hit, “I Melt With You.”
Though the single stopped at No. 78 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in April 1983 and spent just seven weeks on the chart, it’s one of those singles that has stood the test of time despite its chart rank (a 1990 re-recording of “I Melt With You” peaked at No. 76).
1984’s RICOCHET DAYS matched the No. 5 peak of their debut album on the U.K. Indie album chart, and, like AFTER THE SNOW, also reached the top half of BILLBOARD’s album chart here in America. RICOCHET DAYS gave the band their only other Hot 100 single, “Hands Across The Sea,” which reached No. 91.
The last album released by Sire Records here in the U.S. was 1986’s STOP START. Overall, it was not well-received, and a brief AllMusic review calls it a “regrettable, overtly commercial album which impressed no one.” I, for one, enjoyed the album, especially “Ink And Paper,” the lone single released from STOP START.
“Ink And Paper” was co-written with Tommy Dunbar of the Berkeley, California Power Pop band, The Rubinoos (who had two songs on the soundtrack of 1984’s REVENGE OF THE NERDS, including the film’s title song). “Ink And Paper” is a song about a long-distance breakup through, well, ink and paper. (“So many miles separate us / And they’ve come between us in the end / Once upon a time you said forever / But this is now and that was then…”)
After STOP START, the band broke up for a few years, got back together for another couple, with the next incarnation of Modern English getting back together in 1995. It’s this incarnation I saw in Portland, Maine around 1997 (the memory is a little fuzzy on whether or not that’s the year); I do remember it was a great show.
The band is still together today, having toured North America and performing material from their 4AD days (the last stop of the tour was in Boston in June 2016), and fresh off of the early September 2016 release of TAKE ME TO THE TREES, their first studio album of new material in 20 years.
But, it’s this underrated gem from a mostly-forgotten album I wanted to share today, even if it’s not on ink and paper…