XTC, The Big Express

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 03.28.11 in Reviews

The Big Express

Among the band’s least memorable

Whereas XTC’s Mummer sounds better than in did in 1983 because its rural aural greenery seems to exist out of time, The Big Express hasn’t aged well because it’s packed with the clattering industrial drums of 1984. It’s much more energetic than its predecessor; the angular guitars that first distinguished XTC return at slower tempos. But the songs rank among the band’s least memorable; there’s little in the way of hooks, and the lyrics lack the band’s characteristic wit: Neither revealing much about their creators nor speaking eloquently about the world, they’re either unnecessarily convoluted, bitter, or both. Bassist Colin Moulding hasn’t yet returned to writing classic singles and attention-grabbing album tracks; his cautionary opener “Wake Up” isn’t ostensibly aimed at the band or himself, but this was XTC’s second album in a row without hits or major contributions to its formidable songwriting cannon, the second to have lost momentum. Drastic measures were necessary; they arrived via a pushy record company, an unlikely American, and 1986′s Skylarking.