Nathan (vovat) wrote,
Nathan
vovat

My rails ran straight, but straight into the wall

The next in my series of XTC album reviews is the seriously underrated The Big Express.



This is an album that even I often forget when thinking of my favorite XTC recordings, yet there are so many great songs on it. There's a general sense of noisiness to the whole thing, which makes for some interesting arrangements. I know some people have criticized the album for its use of drum machines, but they really don't appear on that many of the tracks. Anyway, let's get this show on the road. Or rather, the tracks.


Wake Up - A great opening offering from Colin, both thematically and musically. I love the dueling audio channels and the whispering choir.

All You Pretty Girls - This is a pretty cool song, that has a bit of a sea chantey sound to it, although I've heard that the main guitar riff was an attempt to imitate Jimi Hendrix. Strange how that combination worked out so well.

Shake You Donkey Up - A seriously underrated XTC song. Well, I at least assume it's underrated, since it's not one I hear about much, and I really like it. Probably the most bizarre song on this album, but that's hardly a bad thing. I do think that the metaphor in the lyrics is rather unevenly applied, as it sometimes sounds like the abusive man is the donkey, and other times like the abused woman is. Sort of like in "Wounded Horse," really. Oh, well. Also, I have to say that the opening reminds me of that of Frank Black's "Kicked in the Taco," probably because of the similar rhythm.

Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her - The chaotic sound of this one really helps to set the scene of a rainy beach. Lyrically, the song is a warning against hesitation in love. I think the bridge might be my favorite part.

This World Over - This song was on Upsy Daisy Assortment, my introduction to the band, but I didn't really listen to it that closely at first. It just seemed kind of low-key and boring. I started liking it more after learning that it was about life in a world after nuclear apocalypse. Really, I never would have guessed. Still not an overall favorite of mine, though.

The Everyday Story of Smalltown - Ah, now we're getting back into really catchy territory! This ode to life in Swindon is both amusing (it's not too often you'll hear "coughing in the toilet" in a sentimental song) and pleasant in its way. And who can forget the immortal line, "Next you'll be telling me it's 1990"? The Blur song "Sunday Sunday" really reminds me of this one, by the way.

I Bought Myself a Liarbird - A bitter song about the band's former management, but with a clear sense of humor about the whole thing. Even the title is a clever pun on the Australian lyrebird.

Reign of Blows - I'm not so keen on the way this turned out. While playing the harmonica through a guitar amp was inspired, the lyrics are kind of hard to make out, and that's a shame considering their cleverness. I still like the song, but it could have used a better mix. Or does it have one on the remastered versions of the CD?

You're the Wish You Are I Had - This is a pretty cool song, but I think it gets a bit lost in the mix, as it's a more traditional pop song surrounded by noisier numbers.

I Remember the Sun - There are only two Colin songs on the main body of this album, and while the first one is excellent, this one is rather forgettable.

Train Running Low on Soul Coal - About the only problem I have with this song is that the kinda cheesy title doesn't really do it justice. The train noises totally work with the lyrics, and it comes across as one of the best closing songs on an XTC album. I've used it as the last track on some of my own mixes.


Red Brick Dream - A poem that Andy wrote about Swindon, and eventually set to music. While I can understand why it was a B-side, I like it, and it definitely fits the overall theme of the album (as much as there is one).

Washaway - A Colin song that I like a lot more than "I Remember the Sun," but what are you going to do? I like the piano part and the tone that Colin uses in singing the song, especially in the "streets lay deserted" part.

Blue Overall - While I can get what Andy was trying to do here (I believe he's been heard to compare it to the Beatles' "Yer Blues"), I'm not a huge fan of how it turned out. Oh, well. It IS a B-side, after all.
Tags: albums, xtc
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