Personnel: Gary McDowell (vocals, guitar); Robbie Grey, Mick Conroy (vocals); Stephen Walker (keyboards); Richard Brown (drums).
Recording information: Hillside Sound; Jacobs; Spaceward.
The debut album by this overlooked 4AD outfit from Colchester in Essex. In many ways, Modern English helped to define the sound and image of that pioneering label; while admittedly pretentious at times, they were also sharp-edged, intellectual, and obsessed with aestheticism. The standouts here are the title track, "Smiles and Laughter," and "Gathering Dust," an epic post-punk exercise in aural dynamics. The keyboard rush that they employ is one of the punkiest uses of Stephen Walker's synthesizer imaginable -- at least prior to the development of the industrial movement. ~ Alex Ogg