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Neo-prog tour of British history
November 30, 2013 8:38 AM   Subscribe

The British band Big Big Train, winners of the Breakthrough Award at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards, have a vocalist who sings not unlike Peter Gabriel, and plays flute not unlike Ian Anderson; a hint of ELP in some songs; and a new member who was previously the guitarist for XTC. Non-prog fans may find the band's source matter intriguing: Their recent (double) album, English Electric I and II, features songs about the first scuba diver, Alexander Lambert, and his heroic work during the flooding of the Severn Tunnel in 1880; notorious fine art forger Tom Keating; an 1842 Royal Commission report on the working conditions of children employed in Welsh coal mines; a world-record-setting, 126 m.p.h. run by a steam locomotive in 1938; and a woman named Blanca Huertas, who is the Curator Lepidoptera at London's Natural History Museum.
posted by helpthebear (17 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
a new member who was previously the guitarist for XTC

Sold.
posted by delfin at 9:22 AM on November 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hmmm, I only have 5 of their CDs, including both the EE. Time to convert dollars to pounds again.
posted by Ber at 9:55 AM on November 30, 2013


This is the best old Genesis I've never heard.
posted by damnitkage at 10:10 AM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Based on track one from English Electric 2, I already prefer them to Marillion ... and ELP for that matter.

But I find it a strangely disconnected experience listening to them. Like finding that band I was so desperately looking for thirty-five years ago, but never found. So I got over my need for Progressive sounding stuff and just got on with music in general. So now when I think progressive, it's always with a lower case "p", an artist who's actually exploring new possibilities in music as opposed to working a definable genre, which is what this stuff feels likie.

But it is very nice stuff. Thanks for all the work. Maybe I just need to give it all more time.
posted by philip-random at 10:13 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the best old Genesis I've never heard.

Indeed.
posted by jokeefe at 11:52 AM on November 30, 2013


Huge Genesis fan - this is really nice. Don't listen to very much prog much these days, but I'll definitely give EE 1&2 a listen - an iTunes purchase this AM.

Thanks - never heard of 'em before.
posted by parki at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


never heard of them - thanks!

What happened with XTC, anyway - all i know, is, Gregory walked out of the Apple Venus sessions(?)
posted by thelonius at 1:32 PM on November 30, 2013


Andy and Colin had some kind of falling out after Apple Venus 2.
posted by Nomyte at 1:41 PM on November 30, 2013


I like prog, and I love old Genesis and Jethro Tull and XTC - a lot - and I like the idea and the look and I want to like this band, who I had never heard of before. Somehow, though, it's just not working for me and I don't know if it's due to philip-random's excellent analysis above or more that they are so slick, so perfect that there's a certain odd inhumanity or possibly the soundtrack to a luxury car commercial settling in. I'm reminded of an old comment I heard once: they're so polished, they're sliding off the stage.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:08 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Their bass player never took that stupid silver plastic cover off the bridge pickup of his Ric 4003.

Which, as every bass player knows, is de rigeur.

So they're not THAT polished.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:25 PM on November 30, 2013


Mallard, while painted a nice shade of blue and all, made her 'record run' downhill, and in just one direction. My grandfather used to tell me of the exploits of Big Alice the Goon, a streamlined S-4 Hudson that used to run across Iowa pretty damn fast- few people even dared to whisper of an alleged speed of 130 mph west of Davenport on a railroad that was busier than an undertaker in Westeros marketing its newfangled diesels. Big Alice still exists today, minus her streamlined skirts, in Lacrosse, WI.
posted by pjern at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been looking for good contemporary prog forever and everyone was raving about these guys, but when I checked out English Electric last year it didn't really do it for me. I'll give it another shot.

I just finished reading Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture, which did a great job of describing, among other things, why modern progressive rock is largely (not all) an exercise in imitation rather than a living breathing genre like it was in the 70s. It made me understand a little better what I've failed to get out of most post-70s prog (Cardiacs excepted).
posted by dfan at 5:00 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: XTC - I know Andy said he didn't want to do that rock and roll crap any more (paraphrased), and Colin seemed to want nothing more to do with music at all. I'm sure there are at least two other sides to this story, though.

I'm excited to listen to this, as the Anglophile in me loves overtly English music. I really should drop an AskMefi about Martin Newell-esque music.
posted by mollweide at 6:14 PM on November 30, 2013


This is the best old Genesis I've never heard.

Need to get my husband to try them on this basis.
posted by immlass at 8:49 PM on November 30, 2013


Their bass player never took that stupid silver plastic cover off the bridge pickup of his Ric 4003.

Which, as every bass player knows, is de rigeur.


Ever see a picture of Chris Squire? He seems not to have been apprised of this requirement. Perhaps he is not really a bass player?
posted by Wolof at 1:33 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is hitting some old Alan Parsons Project buttons for me. I definitely hear Eric Woolfson or even Pete Townshend or a little bit Joe Jackson before I hear Peter Gabriel.
OMG I just googled for spelling and found out Eric Woolfson is dead.
posted by Biblio at 7:43 AM on December 1, 2013


they're good but a 40 year old genre exercise doesn't really strike me as being "progressive" - just more retro in a music scene that's full of retro - (and the chord structures are pretty simple for prog and they are somewhat too polished)

but now for something important

Which, as every bass player knows, is de rigeur.

i'm a bass player and i didn't know that

at least i know that you have to put flatwounds on basses
posted by pyramid termite at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2013


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