“The Big Express” was a huge commercial disappointment for both band and fans alike. This may have been in part due to the fact that the singles pulled from the album fared badly, and of the three only “All You Pretty Girls” made the UK top 50. This seems at odds with the good initial reviews the album received, hardcore XTC fans loved it, and even leader Andy Partridge was quoted as saying that it was some of the best song writing of his career. Having stopped performing live due to Partridge’s stage fright there was plenty of opportunity to concentrate on the production and recording process and David Lord and the band certainly deliver an intricate, multi layered performance.
Fans of XTC will have been used to Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding’s sense of sunshine English whimsy, and their career up until then had been an upbeat experience in leftfield Pop, sharply literate, and largely consistent. “The Big Express” still shows those signs, but only fleetingly and on the whole the album harbours a serious dark side which is portrayed in the difficult rhythmic forays of “Shake You Donkey Up”, “Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her”, and “Reign Of Blows”. For this listener the songs seem too deep, too abstract to refresh and when one compares this work with the likes of other XTC albums such as “The Black Sea”, “Skylarking” or “Nonsuch”, it’s far less memorable. Listen to “Wake Up” and “The Everyday Story Of Smalltown” which capture the more traditional XTC and you have at least two songs that stand up to anything from their back catalogue.
“The Big Express” is for XTC completists only.
A1 Wake Up 4:40
A2 All You Pretty Girls 3:40
A3 Shake You Donkey Up 4:19
A4 Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her 3:58
A5 This World Over 5:37
B1 The Everyday Story of Smalltown 3:55
B2 I Bought Myself a Liarbird 2:49
B3 Reign of Blows 3:30
B4 You’re The Wish You Are I Had 3:17
B5 I Remember the Sun 3:08
B6 Train Running Low on Soul Coal 5:10
“All You Pretty Girls”