As with all of the remasters, the sound quality is substantially improved: the high end is now sparklingly clear, the PRaT is snappy and engaging, and the bass is tight and clean. I ended up getting the Japanese import version, which is a cardboard reproduction in miniature of the original circular record sleeve, complete with microscopic lyric sleeve. (There is also a larger, also circular, lyric booklet with larger printing, in both English and Japanese.)
The Big Express is often labeled (dismissed?) as a transition record, bracketed as it is by the pastoral Mummer on on side and the retro Skylarking on the other, yet bearing scant resemblance to either: instead, it is a hard, jarring, electric record nearly from start to finish, pausing only for the downbeat post-nuclear-apocalypse "This World Over" (on side 1) and the unusually jazzy "I Remember the Sun" (on side 2).
I don't know whether my tastes have changed since the early 1990s, when I would often stop the CD midway through the more-abrasive-even-than-usual closing track ("Train Running Low on Soul Coal"), or whether this album has simply grown on me, but whatever the reason, I now think it kicks ***** from start to finish.
Final note: as with the rest of the remasters, the bonus tracks have been moved from the middle to the end of the CD, where they should have been in the first place. The three bonus tracks on The Big Express are "Red Brick Dream," "Washaway," and "Blue Overall," each of which is excellent.
In short, if you like XTC and either haven't heard The Big Express or haven't listened to it in years, consider giving it another spin!
On the other hand, if you don't know XTC, don't start here! Start instead with one of the CDs in my infallibly ranked tier 1:
Tier 1: Drums and Wires, Black Sea, English Settlement
Tier 2: Skylarking, Apple Venus Pt. 1, Nonsuch, Go 2
Tier 3: Mummer, The Big Express, Oranges and Lemons, Wasp Star, Rag and Bone Buffet
Tier 4: White Music, Explode Together, and all the rest, including Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles series
Methinks world is for you
Made of what you believe
If it's false or if it's true
You can read it in your bible
Or on the back of this record sleeve
- XTC, "I Bought Myself a Liarbird"