Singer Robbie Grey seemed genuinely puzzled as to why the audience at Modern English's Palace show Thursday wasn't more into it. Here's one clue, Robbie: Your band didn't come close to an exciting groove all night.
Modern English (which is scheduled to play Fender's tonight) apparently shot its wad in '83 on "I Melt With You," a brisk, bright new-wave hit with a neat melody and real dynamics. Since then, the best the band's been able to do is repeat it to lesser effect (as on the new single "Ink and Paper") and dish up a lot of prosaic stuff that's pleasant at best.
At least it's not the kind of synthesizer-overkill usually shipped over from Britain these days. With its guitar and keyboard emphasis, the sextet's naturalistic sound ranged from trancelike, Fillmore West jams to the cavernous, moody Angst of today's Joy Division disciples.
But there was nothing of special distinction or note in the sextet's curiously inert attack. On top of that, there was a severe shortage of excitement on stage. You weren't sure whether Grey was joking when he said at one point, "Let's keep the energy level up." Compared to these guys, the Republican Senate field is a hotbed of charisma.