Modern English is perhaps most well-known for their early 80's mega-hit "I Melt With You" - one of those classic songs to which nearly everyone knows the lyrics and melody. Formed in 1979 in Colchester, Essex (England), the band recorded five studio albums and several memorable singles (including "I Melt With You", "Hands Across the Sea" and "Ink and Paper") through 1990 before taking a pause. The musical style across those five albums varied significantly - from the raw, post-punk Mesh and Lace (1981) to the catchy, polished and commercially-oriented Ricochet Days (1984).
"Take Me to the Trees" is the first new album from Modern English in 30 years that features four-fifths of the original lineup: Robbie Grey (vocals), Michael Conroy (bass guitar), Gary McDowell (guitar), and Steve Walker (keyboards). The album was made possible through a fundraising project launched in October 2015 on PledgeMusic. In many ways, the ten new songs on "Take Me to the Trees" are a return to the roots of Modern English. Several tracks on the album, most notably the opener ("You're Corrupt"), are reminiscent of Mesh and Lace's rougher, raw sound with its vocal production, heavy guitars and percussion.
On the whole, the band sounds pretty amazing on their return to the studio. "Trees" (from which the album title is taken) is a smooth listen with an overall sound that reminds me a lot of late-eighties Wire ("A Bell Is A Cup..."). "Sweet Revenge" is the current teaser track for the album and is representative of the album's more accessible, rock-oriented side. Other standout tracks include "I Feel Small" (catchy and melodic, with a clever guitar riff that introduces and carries on throughout the song), "Something's Going On" (slower-paced, mysterious, great bass riff) and "Come Out of Your Hole" (minimal and thoughtful, building melody and emotion as it progresses).
In addition to the musical style, "Take Me to the Trees" demonstrates a few other returns to the band's roots. Throughout the mid-80's, Modern English was signed to UK independent label 4AD Records, whose legendary in-house graphic designer, Vaughan Oliver (23 Envelope) was responsible for creating the visual side of the band, producing album and single sleeves and labels that are stunning works of art in themselves. For "Take Me to the Trees", the album artwork is once again designed by Vaughan Oliver. If you're a fan of 4AD/v23/Vaughan Oliver's graphic design, do yourself a favor and buy the 180g coloured vinyl version this album. The artwork is brilliant - nothing but the best from this artistic genius. On the musical side, the album was co-produced by Martyn Young (of former 4AD bands Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S).
At time of writing, "Take Me to the Trees" is scheduled for official release February 24, 2017. In the meantime, check out Modern English's PedgeMusic page for details about their upcoming "Take Me to the Trees" US Tour experience. The band's first show promoting the new album will take place March 8 (London), followed by a US tour in March-April 2017. Various pledge amounts can get you things like a digital download of the new album, T-shirt, VIP meet and greet, handwritten lyrics, guitar or bass lesson, limited edition signed lithograph (Vaughan Oliver), introducing the band, and even playing on stage with the band for one song. How cool would that be?