Modern English was formed in Colchester, Essex, in 1977 by Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals) and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals), and were originally known as The Lepers.
Richard Brown (drums) and Stephen Walker (keyboards) were added to the lineup and a debut single, Drowning Man, was released in 1980 on the independent Limp label.
The band’s full-length debut, Mesh and Lace (1981), was released by 4AD and drew heavily on the gloom rock sound already patented by bands such as Joy Division, and had little originality or focus.
The follow-up LP, After The Snow (1982), was a minor revelation as the band introduced warmth and strong guitar harmonies (most notably on the minor classic I Melt With You – which featured in the 1983 movie Valley Girl), rejecting the tinny bleakness of their debut.
The album was well received in the USA and the band relocated to New York to consolidate a popularity encouraged by college radio.
Ricochet Days (1984) had a crisper production but less creative experimentation. By Stop Start (1985), released by Sire, Walker and Brown had left and Aaron Davidson (keyboards, guitar) had joined.
The band had tried too hard for commercial approval and was left with an unspecific pop/rock sound that caused them to split soon afterwards.
Grey returned to England to form a new outfit but reconvened Modern English in 1990 with Davidson and Conroy. They released the Pillow Lips album (1990) but to little interest.
Grey subsequently put the band on hold to study and travel. In 1995, he re-formed Modern English with Matthew Shipley (keyboards) and Steven Walker (guitars) and recorded Everything’s Mad for the Imago label.
The band continues to tour on the US club circuit, and in 2001 signed a new recording contract.