or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Misc.-Category Forums › Music › XTC: The Big Express
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

XTC: The Big Express

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I finally finished upgrading my XTC collection from the old Geffen CDs to the remastered versions on Virgin that came out a few years ago. As a consequence, I've listened to this underrated album three times over the past few days: once in my auto, once at work using a mid-fi Klipsch 2.1 system, and now through Sony SA5000 headphones at home.

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

Cheers,
jbunniii

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"
post #2 of 12
Yup, one of my all-time XTC faves, too.
post #3 of 12
Necropost I know... but I just put on _Skylarking_ to rediscover it on my Stax setup, and thought I'd search for XTC stuff on the board. I definitely gotta pull out _The Big Express_ after this... I love that album... it definitely gets short shrift generally speaking... what with the weird sounding Linn drum machine wailing away... TBE has some of my fav XTC songs. I also have the cardboard remasters, though I skipped the first two albums for whatever reason, and have never heard them... should go find them now that I think about it...

I had the original CD release of _Nonsuch_ and found it unlistenable, while the remaster is great.

Oh man, I'm gonna be on a big XTC kick tonight instead of sleeping...

edit: oh man, got TBE going. This is freaking great... "This World Over", "I Bought Myself a Liarbird", "Reign of Blows", "You're the Wish You Are I Had"... freaking awesome.
edit2: oh man..."I Remember the Sun"... so good... that one with the train sounds at the beginning comes next i think...
post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by jbunniii View Post
...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

Cheers,
jbunniii

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"
Very good and very hard to find fault with ranking of the XTC catalog. Only thing missing is the 25 O'Clock material, unless it's meant to be included in Tier 4 with "and all the rest", since I might bump the 25 O'Clock up one tier.

Don't worry, I'm just being anal and picky otherwise it's great to see a mention of XTC here on Head-Fi.

I'm lucky enough and I'm also old enough to have actually seen XTC in concert way back in 1980 around the time that "Black Sea" was released. They were very good and I was really sorry when I later learned that Andy Partridge would not perform in public anymore.
post #5 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by feckn_eejit View Post
Necropost I know...
Thanks for bumping jbunniii's post. It's great.
post #6 of 12
Here's my take on the XTC catalog:

Tier 1: Black Sea, English Settlement, Big Express, Skylarking, Chips From the Chocolate Fireball (as Dukes of Stratosphear).

Tier 2: Drums & Wires, Oranges & Lemons, Nonsuch, Apple Venus

Tier 3: Wasp Star, Mummer

Tier 4: Go2, White Music, Mummer
post #7 of 12
Well my take on things is -
Buy with no reservations:
Drums & Wires, Black Sea, Skylarking, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball, Apple Venus

Any other band would kill to make CDs this good but...:
Nonsuch, English Settlement, Big Express, Oranges & Lemons, Mummer, Wasp Star

For fans only:
Go2, White Music, various Andy Partridge living room recordings

The best is Skylarking by far, but my favorite remains Black Sea, where XTC sounded like the best pop band in the world for just a while.
post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by zumaro View Post
Well my take on things is -
Buy with no reservations:
Drums & Wires, Black Sea, Skylarking, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball, Apple Venus

Any other band would kill to make CDs this good but...:
Nonsuch, English Settlement, Big Express, Oranges & Lemons, Mummer, Wasp Star

For fans only:
Go2, White Music, various Andy Partridge living room recordings

The best is Skylarking by far, but my favorite remains Black Sea, where XTC sounded like the best pop band in the world for just a while.
Can't disagree with your rankings. Though the ones I turn to most often are Nonsuch, Drums and Wires, The Big Express, and Oranges and Lemons, with English Settlement and Skylarking a bit behind. I almost feel those two are a bit... oh, idunno... too good, particularly Skylarking.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jbunniii View Post

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

 

I drifted away from Head-Fi some years ago, having more or less settled on my stalwart Grado RS-1 and Gilmore Lite for daily listening, and having put the headphone hobby on ice in favor of more expensive hobbies, such as a wife, house, and, most recently, a never-ending bathroom remodel.

 

I happened to land here today and while skimming through some of my old threads I found this one. It caused me to immediately fire up The Big Express for the first time in years. It is every bit as great as it always was, even at questionable streaming fidelity via Rdio. CD is buried in a box somewhere. It's bringing back some great memories of my first few listens when I bought the original CD release (or maybe it was already a reissue? it was the one with the three bonus tracks rudely placed between sides 1 and 2) circa 1989.

 

I also feel compelled to make a few tweaks to the above ranking. Taking Go 2 down a peg (no pun intended), promoting Skylarking, and adding the Dukes of Stratosphear - how on earth did I omit them last time? I'm resisting the temptation to move The Big Express into Tier 2, but it's probably the strongest album in Tier 3 - the others in that tier all have brilliant parts but they aren't as consistently good.

 

Tier 1: Drums and Wires, Black Sea, English Settlement, Skylarking
Tier 2: Apple Venus Pt. 1, Nonsuch, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball
Tier 3: Mummer, The Big Express, Oranges and Lemons, Wasp Star, Go 2, Rag and Bone Buffet
Tier 4: White Music, Explode Together, and all the rest, including Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles series

post #10 of 12

Tier one for me is Apple Venus, Skylarking, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball, and Oranges and Lemons.

 

Everything else goes somewhere else.  

 

Melding audiophilia and XTC, here's a guitar that once belonged to Andy Partridge that is now in possession of Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio:

 

post #11 of 12

Best Rickenbacker band ever, well almost..

post #12 of 12

One of my favorite concert memories is seeing XTC open for the Police at McFarlin Auditorium at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I think it was either 1981 or 1982.

 

That was when the Police weren't very famous and  they were playing college auditoriums.

 

Now that was a killer show!

 

I still remember the members of XTC spinning around while they were performing the song "Helicopter" from "Drums & Wires."

 

That was the only time I ever saw XTC and the first time I saw the Police.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Music
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Misc.-Category Forums › Music › XTC: The Big Express