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Big Big Train - The Difference Machine CD (album) cover


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

3.64 | 316 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars One quick one before the road....

Big Big Train has always been a back-and-forth band with me. I love the soundscapes they create with their more ambient tracks, but sometimes lack excitement. Then they retaliate with long, lengthy jams, but that emotion, that aura they give off just isn't there, and this particular album strikes me as another pull-and-push. I love the short songs off of "English Boy Wonders", they just seem to emanate the natural description of the United Kingdom in spectacular fashion. Yet I also love the soothing epics that burst into blazing triumph on "The Underfall Yard". I guess it's just a hit-or-miss opportunity with each of their albums.

And I guess this one's just shy of the mark...

To be honest, "Perfect Cosmic Storm" is the only one worth listening to. The jams are there, the excitement is fresh, the vocal work is invigorating and yet none of the emotion and atmosphere in their slower interludes has been lost. Yet "Pick Up If You're There" just doesn't start off right. I'm not a fan of immediately starting a song with with two notes, and then the singer comes in. Shame the song develops nicely later on, developing shades of Porcupine Tree and The Mars Volta with perhaps just a shade of Beatles charm. It ends great, but if your listeners turn off the song in the intro before the good stuff happens, what's the point of the song?

I mean, none of the little interludes amuse me, "Saltwater Falling On Uneven Ground" seems poorly constructed, with no real hook in the vocals, no real star factor. Just seems like a typical Big Big Train song that didn't gel. It's like taking the ingredients for a perfect cocktail and dumping it in a container but forgetting to blend them evenly together. And "Summer's Lease" just loses me completely. I love the atmospheric synths towards the end, and there's always room for subtle guitar plucks and that smooth sax (love smooth saxes), but the bass is just too much. I tried lowering the bass on my speakers and it made no difference, the bass ruined it completely. The synths were drowned out and the song generally was just too loud. Big Big Train has been frankly excellent on balancing their sound when need be, and on this particular album they just haven't done that. I don't know.

VERDICT: I'm guessing if you're a massive BBT fan, this is perfect for you, but I just wouldn't recommend this album to anyone. The recipe is there, but it just doesn't feel like it's finished. It sounds like an incomplete album, a disc full of demos. Maybe, I'm wrong about this. I don't know. It's just... I don't know. I guess it's an anomaly. I hope it's just that. I haven't heard English Electric, and I hope it echoes "English Boy Wonders" or "The Underfall Yard". (and PLEASE no spoilers or opinions, even though I'd probably ignore them)

FAVORITES: "Perfect Cosmic Storm", the entire English Boy Wonders album, the entire The Underfall Yard album

Wicket | 2/5 |


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