XTC's seventh album is viewed by many as one of their weakest and a career nadir, perhaps on the basis of its sleek '80s (over-?)production, not to mention the fact that it was a major commercial failure on its release.
Newcomers to the band should not be deterred, however. Messrs Partridge and Moulding have always been quality songwriters and there's no shortage of top quality material here though, if you're anticipating the band's gentler and more pastoral side, forget it. This is an album that was made to be listened to at volume.
'The Big Express' features three fine, forgotten singles, 'Wake Up', 'All You Pretty Girls' and 'This World Over', while other highlights include the tongue-in-cheek C&W of 'Shake You Donkey Up', the Beatlesy pop of '...Smalltown' and 'You're The Wish...', the steaming discordance of '...Soul Coal' and the wafty, wistful psychedelia of 'Red Brick Dream'.
As any XTC afficionado should tell you, this is a band that has never made a bad album; it's just that some are simply of superior quality. Although, in the humble opinion of this reviewer, 'The Big Express' isn't a classic like, say, 'English Settlement' or 'Skylarking', it's not far off, by any means...
...so buy it, ok?