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The Big Express lyrics
The Big Express (1984)

Even hard-core fans remain slightly ambivalent about 1984's The Big Express, the least organic and most dogmatic of all XTC albums and ideally the last place any prospective XTC purchaser should start building their collection. Instead, hesitant newcomers to the band's fine body of work are best off seeking the Fossil Fuel singles collection, which happens to contain the best tracks The Big Express has to offer, namely the reggae-grooved, Police-inspired nuclear-war lament "This World Over" and the bubblegum-pop sea shanty "All You Pretty Girls," which really does sound like "What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor" as performed by the entire cast of The King and I. For the more persistent and inquisitive, The Big Express offers some challenging obstacles in the shape of the Captain Beefheart-goes-hoedown twitchiness of "Shake Your Donkey Up" or the parochial Britpop prototype "Everyday Story of Smalltown," which evokes Ray Davies in its lyrical observations of dawn milk rounds and laborers commuting to the Swindon railworks on bicycles. Andy Partridge, particularly, has always enjoyed a love/hate relationship with his hometown. And like Swindon's industrial legacy, The Big Express is rather morose. Sure enough, more splendid creative times were just around the bend for XTC. --Kevin Maidment

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