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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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3 stars One of the most recent Big Big Train albums, The Difference Machine, is also one of the best neo-prog albums out there. VERY GOOD USE OF INSTRUMENTS SUCH AS SAX, FLUTE AND VIOLIN. These guys are genuinely creative with their arrangements. I make this point because in the world of Modern Prog, it is 'good enough' to get you into the 'club' to make music that basically pays homage to Genesis and the like, without doing anything really original. There's a whole raft of adored neo-prog and other bands that just get hi-fives out of the general prog-fan public by making reference in their music to the classic era of Prog, namely the early Genesis and Yes albums. They can coast along with gleaming and positive 5-star reviews for their creativity for 're-creating' the creative sound of those earlier bands; Hackett's guitar tone, Gabriel's voice, long Yes-like instrumental passages etc. However, their music is more or less a humble compliment to an earlier, greater entity, much less original than derivative.

While the album 'The Difference Machine' by 'Big Big Train' is certainly in that vein, it also cuts out it's own piece in progressive rock history, very rare for these days, as far as neo- prog is concerned. Of-course, these guys are more or less fitting in with the 'overall' feeling of prog, but some of their approach is quite original. The opening cut, is indeed, very good, a three minute ambient opener with various instruments blending together nicely. This creates a pleasant but somewhat eerie effect. The second song, a 14 minute epic called 'Perfect Cosmic Storm' is the most rocking track on the album. It's a very good epic and features a lot of twists and turns, a lot of reference to earlier masters, but some of it is original. The song has some funky guitar and some gently rising 'sax' and good vocal harmonies. This is followed by a brief 'Breathing Space' with songs like Crickets and other night insects, and a bit of mellotron/synths, before another epic track, pick up if you're there, begins. At 13 mintues, this is another ambitious prog-epic, but doesn't really do what the earlier epic didn't, but still is good music, with plenty of interesting sax, mellotron and twisting, turning musical sections.Also the vocals are good, easy to understand. There's plenty of accessible rock music passages on this album, with some catchy bits here and there. Also lots of nice, colourful organ.

The fifth track is another 'bridge' track, if you like, that links into another epic 'Saltwater falling on uneven ground' which is similar to the other two epic tracks. It's got plenty of funky guitar, some accessible rock music passages, some aura-creating organs and mellotrons, good singing and more twisting and turning music sections. But alas, this song also provides some brilliant flute and violin and some crescendo moments that are pretty good. Still, I can't see much difference between the three 'epic' tracks, and they make up the bulk of this album.

I like the album closer, 'Summer's Lease' which is really unique and beautiful. It utilises the use of saxaphone and other instruments very nicely. It's also somewhat catchy.

On the downsides to this album, the fact they feel the need to stretch everything out to epic proportions, that there is a lot of meandering and derivative passages to flesh the thing out, though the longer songs are actually very good, just feels like a bit forced. Also, the music really lacks any emotional output, overall it seems rather un-emotional. I would liked to have seen more of the mellotron and wind instruments used, as they did on the first and last tracks of the CD. This gives more uniqueness to their sound. That said this is still a really good album.

After listening to this, I realise that Big Big train are one of the better progressive bands out there today, and that I should check out more of their albums.

Brendan | 3/5 |


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