Review Summary: The spectre of early Genesis looms large on this well crafted release but the music is lacking the imagination and audaciousness that exemplified those kings of theatrical symphonic prog.
Big Big Train are a crossover prog band from England that have been around since 1990 in some form or another. They have released several albums over the years with members of Spock's Beard, XTC and Marillion making guest contributions. English Electric is their seventh full release.
This was an album I really wanted to like. I've listened to it several times since it was released at the start of September in an attempt to embrace the music but sadly the only feeling I am left with is apathy; it's so inoffensive and unchallenging. There's not even a really bad song to break things up and serve as a demarcation point in the flow of track after track of mediocrity.
Big Big Train has been likened to early Genesis. I suppose there is a similarity but I feel the comparison is misleading. If you had a computer program that would produce music based upon your input parameters and you entered some typical Genesis characteristics like 'pastoral acoustic guitar passages', 'vocals a bit like Gabriel with a bit of flute here and there' and 'songs about fields, hedges and quaint English things' you could well end up with something quite close to this album. However, in their heyday Genesis also exhibited other characteristics. They were quirky, innovative, theatrical and compelling; Big Big Train on English Electric are none of those things. Obviously it would be a far stretch to expect any band to approach the level of Genesis at their peak but this music is unremarkable in the extreme. It's expertly composed for what it is, it's well performed and the production sounds great. It's not bad at all. But it's not very good either. It's middling, average, forgettable and ...(DIY review spot: look up 'mediocre' in a thesaurus and insert all the synonyms here)...
I'd really rather listen to something that I hate than listen to this. At least it would be invoking a response in me. I can appreciate the music on an intellectual level but it moves me not one iota. Music is supposed to move you in some way isn't it ? Make you laugh, cry, dance, tap your foot, bang your head, scare you, inspire you, disgust you, captivate you, relax you or even make you want to throw the record across the room in a fit of angry disappointment (well, hit the delete button on your keyboard with a flourish anyway). This album doesn't make me want to do any of those things, it just makes me want to..hmm..well...it doesn't make me want to do anything really. This is the musical equivalent of spending quite a pleasant morning with some quite agreeable folks drinking some quite nice tea and politely talking about quite nice things like the weather and the state of the garden lawn.