Thursday, 10 September 2009

Modern English -After The Snow (1982)

(1982) In a strange paradox, I feel like, most of the time, this album is underrated or forgotten about because of its one huge song Forgotten because of popularity and perhaps a bit of over saturation. Of course, 'I Melt With You' is the definition of classic One of those perfect pop singles that defined an era and, through its universally articulate lyrics, simultaneously transcended that era for generations to come. Wonderful stuff. And one of those rare moments where a song is so good it feels, in retrospect, like a poetic victory for truly creative and genuine music.

Originally released in 1982 on the British 4AD label, it must have sounded like an epic masterpiece at that point. Foreshadowing where fellow post-punkers-turned-pop bands like the Cure and New Order would go in the near future, it can now be asserted as the most perfect mashup of arty post-punk dissonances and pop catchiness. Its closest contemporaries were probably similarly minded albums like the Sound's All Fall Down or Echo and the Bunnymen's Heaven Up Here (and this one makes the most sense because it was magnificently produced by Hugh Jones, who handles production duties on After the Snow just a year after his work with the Bunnymen) But we're a bit ahead of ourselves Allow me to indulge the Bunnymen comparison for just a bit more.. It's fitting that Hugh Jones worked with Echo on Heaven Up Here — perhaps the darkest and artiest album of their catalogue— in the same year that Modern English made their first album; itself a strange and drugged out affair that was certainly more goth than anyone would have guessed if they were working backwards through the band's discography I mean, just have a look at the cover. The music isn't excessively weird, it's just much more psychedelic and downright trippy than most people would imag
ine for what is essentially a new wave album. A single (which can now be appropriately viewed as somewhat of a proto-shoegaze tune) was released and promptly ignored. After the band released Mesh and Lace, they were dubbed competent Joy Division knockoffs and nothing more was thought of the issue A year or so later, in a turn of events nobody in the most astute of ogic would have foreseen, they re-emerged with 'I Melt With You and had a minor British hit Its accompanying album was a fantastic mish mash of uber-pop ushly layered arrangements, reflective melancholy and a toned down but still present experimental edge Seriously, as rock albums go, this one is as about as diverse as they come The albums starts off with the wonderful second single 'Someone's Calling' and its excellent opening simile: 'Turning round as if in flight.' That's a descriptive lyric for this album, as well. The whole thing has the feeling of changing direction, slowly and methodically as to not miss anything in the process From there, the rest of side one presents the band at their boundary-pushing best. If you just hear the songs on the surface there will be plenty to latch onto: hooky vocals, catchy riffs, a dynamite rhythm section. But if you really sit down with these songs, there are layers upon layers of things about them that wil reward repeated diligent listens. The best argument for that is that one-two punch of the stuttery and poignant 'Life in the Gladhouse which is followed by the big epic and album spiritual centerpiece'Face of Wood.' Sounding like the Cure before they even managed to get there, it's an absolutely beautiful song that finds a balance between the first album's artsy ambiance and the band's newly discovered sense of melody and songcraft.

Side two kicks off with 'I Melt With You' and, I'll just say it right now it's the poppiest thing on the album, by far. Anyone who bought After the Snow anticipating another seven or eight songs like 'I Melt With You' got ripped off, plain and simple. It's funny that they chose to start side two off with the mos accessible thing on the album because the rest of the songs are much more subdued and meditative. The title track and 'Carry Me Down' seem to mirror the initial sentiment of change that started with 'Someone's Calling.' Even the more paranoid and darker'Tables Turning' that closes the album retains a specific vibe started by the title track. It's amazing how much ground this album covers n just eight songs and that it does that so convincingly is even more impressive It took about a year for the album to be picked up for North American release on the Sire label. It was the band's first American release.

After the Snow is one of the best albums in the entire post-punk cannon. Easily one of my favorite albums ever, I still get a little annoyed when I bring up Modern English and all most people know s 'I Melt With You. Any self-respecting new wave fan should know this album front to back.


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