Modern English are a new wave/post-punk band from Colchester, Essex, England formed in 1979 and best known for their songs "I Melt with You", "Hands Across the Sea", and "Ink and Paper". The group disbanded in 1987, only to reform two years later and then disband after another two years (1991). They reunited again in 1995 and have continued in various lineups since that time.
Formed in Colchester, Essex, England, in 1979 by Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals), Modern English were originally known as The Lepers. The group expanded to "Modern English" when Richard Brown (drums) and Stephen Walker (keyboards) were subsequently added to the lineup of the band.
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. 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. 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. 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". The second single from the album was also a hit in the US, "I Melt with You" reaching number 76. 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". 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. The album Stop Start (1986) was the last Modern English record released by Sire, with the band splitting up after its release. During 1983–1984, Grey, McDowell and Conroy were also involved with This Mortal Coil.
Robbie Grey reformed Modern English in 1989 with Mick Conroy and Aaron Davidson to record a new album, Pillow Lips, released in 1990 on the American TVT label. 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. The band split up for a second time in 1991, after contractual problems with TVT, with Grey forming Engine. In 1995, with 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.
Robbie Grey toured the US with a new Modern English lineup from 1998 to 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 24 May 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 in 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 recorded a new album which was funded via Pledge with an originally planned March 2016 release date. The album was recorded, produced and mixed by Martyn Young from Colourbox and MARRS, who also adds additional keyboards. They also toured the Mesh & Lace album in the U.S. in 2016.