The Big Express
The Big Express comes across as a kneejerk reaction to 1983’s overly tepid Mummer. Colin Moulding’s opener ‘Wake Up’ bursts out with a dazzling dual rhythm guitar pattern, and throughout The Big Express XTC crank up the energy levels, wisely reintroducing electric guitars as Andy Partridge’s frenetic rhythms drive ‘All The Pretty Girls’ and imitate an express train in the excellent closer ‘Train Running Low on Soul Coal’.
The Big Express is also reliant on drum programming; the effect on the louder songs is surprisingly invigorating, while XTC wisely utilise a session drummer on the more sensitive pieces. ‘Shake Your Donkey Up’ is the closest XTC ever came to country, while ‘I Bought Myself a Liarbird’ mixes Beatlesque verses with an abrasive chorus. Again sensibly, there’s some prettiness buried amongst all the noise; Partridge’s blatantly poppy ‘You’re The Wish You Are I Had’ should have been a single, while ‘This World Over’ and Moulding’s ‘I Remember The Sun’ are lovely ballads.
It’s a jarring and dated album in some respects, but The Big Express still stands up very well.