Modern English gives a lesson in post-punk during their sold-out Free At Noon set - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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A sold-out concert is always promising. More people means more energy from the crowd, more dancing feet and lip-syncing mouths, and wider smiles on the band members’ faces as they look upon the sea of heads nodding along to the music. The stairs down to World Cafe Live’s Music Hall stage were lined top to bottom with fans eagerly waiting to see Robbie Grey sing the mega-hit that was “I Melt With You,” but before even stepping foot in the venue, the string of concert-goers were met with an unexpected surprise. The band’s tour manager came out and began handing out free signed CD’s to everyone in line (including myself). While a small and perhaps outdated gesture, looking around it was instantly clear that fans were grateful for the gift and ready to reciprocate the love during the show.

As Modern English walked on stage, the crowd roared in excitement. Mick Conroy strummed away on bass as the rest of the band fell in for “Gathering Dust.” Screaming, whirling guitar noises engulfed the room like a tornado as the chorus struck, reminding attentive listeners that Modern English not only used to be a young, loud, post-punk band, but was in fact a progenitor of the genre itself. After an explosive crash out they went right into the gothic “Someone’s Calling” and “After the Snow,”  both highlights from their 1982 segue into new wave aptly titled After the Snow. 

Grey addressed the crowd, performing the customary small talk of “how’s everybody doing?” before detailing the band’s upcoming record. The album, titled 1 2 3 4, is slated for release in early 2024 (January or February by Grey’s approximation) and is a return to form for the band, focusing on the raunchy chords and catchy guitar melodies signature to Modern English’s sound. They played three unreleased tracks from the LP, “Not My Leader”, “Crazy Lovers”, and “Long in the Tooth,” the latter of which is out next week and revolves around getting “older and bolder” as Grey put it. Ironically, this trio of tracks felt the most youthful of the whole set. “Not My Leader” was reminiscent of a Pixies song with huge choruses and quiet verses, as well as lyrics aimed at the lack of honest and helpful politicians in the world today. Meanwhile, “Crazy Lovers” had a poppy chord progression and an 80s feel that would make for a perfect fit on any indie-rock band’s next EP.

Modern English closed out this week’s Free at Noon with, of course, “I Melt With You.” The crowd swayed to the sound of the song’s iconic guitar line. Grey turned the mic to the audience at various points, beckoning them to sing the chorus with him in unison. The voices of a sold out crowd rang together as they recited the words, clapping along during the instrumental breakdown and screaming in excitement as the band sped up towards the end for a noisy, punk rock outro that rose higher and higher before crashing away into silence. Remarkably, the quartet walked back on stage for an off-air encore, jamming on “Swans on Glass” before waving farewell to Philly.

Presave “Long in the Tooth” here and look out for 1 2 3 4 early next year.

Setlist
Sep
08
Modern English
Free At Noon
  • Gathering Dust
  • Someone's Calling
  • After The Snow
  • Not My Leader
  • Crazy Lovers
  • Long in the Tooth
  • Hands Across The Sea
  • I Melt WIth You
  • Swans on Glass
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