Modern English

Modern English and The Prolific
The Viper Room, The Sunset Strip
West Hollywood, California
By Victoria Joyce

One Hit Wonder? Maybe. Geezer rock? Define your terms. Modern English is playing the Viper Room tonight and we are so there. And besides, Matt Fuller’s new band, The Prolific is opening. Double duty.

Halloween is three weeks away and Hollywood nights are cooling off. It’s leather jacket weather again. Yay. Getting to the club about 10p we get the bad news right away. We missed The Prolific. Damn. Who goes on at 8:45p? Ouch. More bad news, Matt had to leave for his second gig that night. Hardest workingman in Show Biz since James Brown passed away. Get on the good foot.

What do you think of when you think of Modern English? “Have you ever seen the movie “Valley Girl?” We laugh at that question. Seen it twenty-something times and could see it twenty more. We answer our friend, Sommer Taylor – a few months ago, we went to the 30th Anniversary Screening at the LA County Museum of Art hosted by NYTimes Movie guy, Elvis Costello. No, make that, Mitchell. And reviewed for SugarBuzz HERE.

Love the film. Adore the soundtrack. Our favorite. And final song over end credits has us near tears every time: “I Melt With You” by Modern English as Nic Cage and Deborah Foreman drive off into the night on the Hollywood Freeway. The future’s open wide. Sigh.

Attention TMZ: Celeb Sighting Tonight: Valley Girl Deborah Foreman is in the house.

Standing next to Prolific keyboard man, Jason Donnelly we found out that The Prolific has a sampler “Album 2013” preview on

Vocals are haunting and distant, lyrics are engaging and dark, the band’s look is eclectic World Mod and one size too small. The sound is serious. Musically sophisticated with a deceptive simplicity that is part Punk and Part Pop Nugget. Junk Food that’s good for you. Like mommy putting M&Ms in your mashed potatoes.

Modern English 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 line-up of the band.

Known for the Mid 80s hits “I Melt With You” and “Hands Across the Sea,” the Mod E’s broke up in 1991 reformed with other guys, broke up and re-re-formed in 2009 with the originals, wrote some new stuff, went back into the studio and now on tour. First new album in 25 years about to pop.

Looking like Modern English teachers on a field trip with salt and pepper hair and Mom Jeans, the ModLish took the stage about 11pm with those smooth Euro Beats and Robbie inquiring “So how the f*ck is everybody?” He picked up a white tambourine and switched off with an acoustic guitar and went through mostly the new stuff.

Prolific’s Jason asked us “Is everyone anticipating the big hit or taking it all in?” We sided with taking it all. As usual the better part of the Viper audience was musicians with veneration in their hearts, also taking it all in. Jason further told us about Prolific’s set, “I had 4 days to learn the songs. These guys are awesome!” Modern English is one of his favorite bands of all time. “When they told me we had this gig, I freaked out – posted on my FB page and it blew up!” He’s all happy.

Gray continued the set with eyes toward heaven and lightly sang swirling existentialist songs that hit the heart. We loved bass player, Michael Conroy’s face tattoo. Very Wild Man of Borneo. A ballad out of nowhere was a minimalist cacophonous dirge that was sad and sleepy and ended with a bang. Surprise!

In keeping with the scary season, the Viper Room ran video clips on the wall from famous monster movies peppered with posters for upcoming gigs. The Creature from The Black Lagoon grabbing at the swimming lady type stuff and the original Dr. Frankenstein in his lab. He’s alive.

The end of the set was, of course “I Melt With You” sounding as beautiful as ever. You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time.