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Big Big Train - Bard CD (album) cover


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

3.10 | 162 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars It's no secret that after their very capable debut album, Goodbye To the Age of Steam, Big Big Train ended up going into a bit of a slump. They've made no secret of the fact that their second album, English Boy Wonders, was released in a rather unfinished state, due to them simply being unable to afford to finish it, and they would part ways with Giant Electric Pea after its release.

Greg Spawton and Andy Poole soldiered on, however, working on demos and getting together with other band members as and when they could to try and produce a new album - that being Bard. This seems to have been an onerous and discouraging process for them; if you dig around on the Wayback Machine you can find their old website at the time, with blog posts suggesting that Greg and Andy were seriously considering giving up on the band after this.

The results here suggest why. Bard is a tepid, unhappy-sounding album - not unhappy in the sense that the music is artistically melancholic, but unhappy in the sense that it feels glumly unenthusiastic. One wonders if this is deliberate - an attempt to mimic the world-weary pose of indie rock darlings of the era. If that is the case, and it's all a pose, then it's a seriously misjudged one, and if it isn't then there's some real behind the scenes problems here.

As well as a fairly subdued and dull musical backing, mention has to be made of Martin Read's vocals here. This would be his last album with the band, and his voice this time around has taken on a rough, gravelly tone which stands at odds with the singing voice he used on the preceding albums. Again, I have to ask whether he's deliberately doing this, or whether the constrained circumstances of recording caused this (is he having to semi-whisper his vocals so as not to disturb the neighbours?), or if his voice had simply gone to pot; in any event, it's a step down.

Front-loaded with its best tracks, the album only gets more forgettable as it proceeds. Big Big Train have made the call not to revisit one, as they did with English Boy Wonders, and when the band themselves aren't willing to stand by their work, there's precious little reason for listeners to.

Warthur | 2/5 |


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