Modern English

Take Me to the Trees

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Take Me to the Trees features four-fifths of the Modern English that recorded for 4AD during the first half of the '80s. Frontman Robbie Grey had carried versions of the band into the 2000s, but in 2010, keyboardist Steve Walker, guitarist Gary McDowell, and bassist Michael Conroy re-entered the fold with Roy Martin added as drummer. Touring occurred on and off, and over the course of two to three years in Conroy's studio space, they recorded this album with long-inactive fellow 4AD alum Martyn Young -- of the frequently brilliant, ahead of their time Colourbox -- as co-producer and additional keyboardist. Grey rarely howls sharply and no longer croons as deeply as he once did, tending to stick instead with toned-down but still impassioned performances. With what seem like only slight alterations to his approach, Grey expresses fond affection or seething disgust, the latter through the nervy stand-out likes of the nearly glam "You're Corrupt," the driving "Dark Cloud" and "Sweet Revenge," and the pained skeletal ballad "Come Out of Your Hole." Listeners who thought McDowell's electric work on the early albums was too low in the mix should be thrilled with the presence it has here, cutting and slashing through the most inspired moments. A slightly baleful, almost submerged feeling from front to back adds extra allure to what is, at its core, a set of solid material untainted by nostalgia.

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