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Postmodern English

Though Modern English just released a greatest-hits collection, the group seems pretty subdued. When a band comes out with one album in 11 years, then follows it with a compilation record, it's pretty safe to say the anthology is the group's swan song. A last-ditch tour should follow in an effort to squeeze some retirement cash from a nostalgic public.

But Modern English doesn't play like that. Its show at the Culture Room tonight, September 13, is one of only two the band members intend to perform in the United States (the other is in Orlando) before heading back to their native England. But this is a band whose one-hit-wonder status resulted from an unconventional choice or two, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised.

Modern English started up in the transitional days of 1979, when punk was giving way to the new-wave movement that eventually provided us with the landmark Talking Heads and the ultimate antihippie, Elvis Costello. Dark, angst-filled songs were the order of the day for the band -- the hit "I Melt with You," a paean to the joys of young love, was an anomaly.

This explains the solitary famous tune. Folks heard "I Melt with You," ran to the record store to buy the album, and were then utterly disillusioned by the rest of its content. Modern English never enjoyed another hit. After the Snow, the 1982 offering that included the aforementioned song, was followed by 1984's Ricochet Days. That album began the slow descent into "just another synth-pop band" territory. Subsequent albums didn't help matters much. By the time Modern English came back in 1996 with Everything Is Mad, no one seemed to give a damn. This year's Life in the Gladhouse, 1980-1984: Best of Modern English created a similarly minuscule ripple. But for music lovers who take comfort in the early 1980s, a dollop of new-wave goodness is sure to be found at this concert.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney

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