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Big Express - The Surround Sound Series CD/Blu-Ray

Review by Gary Hill

This new release features a 2023 Steven Wilson remix of an XTC album from the 1980s. I have to admit that while I've heard a lot about XTC over the years, I don't think I've ever actually heard them before. Their mix of 80s Crimson-like elements, art pop, punky things and more works well. This is often accessible and always interesting. Now, the second disc, being a Blu-Ray, and featuring lots of different audio versions of the album, doesn't really seem to warrant the track by track coverage we give to CDs. Let's say that in addition to different formats of this album, it includes the original version and a lot of bonus tracks. It's well worth having for fans of the band. That is true of the set as a whole, too.

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Track by Track Review
Wake Up
There is a rather funky groove to this. The track has elements of 80s King Crimson along with hints of Devo and plenty of modern prog tendencies at play. There are also hints of the art rock kind of thing 10cc was famous for. This is classy stuff that works really well.
All You Pretty Girls
This has some intriguing twists and turns. There are folk/world elements at play along with 80s trappings. It's also got some Zappa-like twists and turns built into it. This definitely shows off more of that 10cc sort of art-pop thing.
Shake You Donkey Up
I dig the Devo meets 80s King Crimson vibe of this thing. It's energized, bouncy and a lot of fun.
Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her
Bouncy art rock is on the menu here. This has some cool twists and turns and works really well. There is a cool jazzy element that comes in over the top later.
This World Over
Vocals start this. The cut works out with an intriguing arrangement from there. King Crimson and more trippy art rock paint the sonic scene as it builds. I love the bass work as this gets more invigorated.
The Everyday Story of Smalltown
I like the cool rocking vibe of this. It has some classic rock texture, but it's mixed with more art rock angles.
I Bought Myself a Liarbird
I really dig the energy and groove of this cut. It has a dreamy sort of progressive pop vibe to it. It's another fun number.
Reign of Blows
Harmonica serves to ground this track, but the rest of the arrangement soars. 80s King Crimson is definitely a reference point here. This is one of the highlights of the disc for me. It has a great combination of edgy, neo-prog and classic hard rock.
You're the Wish You Are I Had
This isn't a big change, but the energetic pop vibes are contagious and the vocal arrangement is intriguing. There is a healthy helping of old-school rock and roll in this, but there is a break that is very much 80s King Crimson.
I Remember the Sun
I really dig the cool, trippy modern prog vibe to this. It has some great, yet somewhat understated, guitar work. The jazzy vocal arrangement makes me think of the yacht rock era. This is very artsy and has some unusual twists and turns.
Train Running Low on Soul Coal
There is a healthy helping of Talking Heads built into this along with the more proggy things. I like this one quite a bit. We get some really noisy Crimsonian prog jamming in the mix later.
Red Brick Dream
More of a dreamy kind of folk prog arrangement is on the menu here.
Punky and hard rocking, this has plenty of art rock still in the mix.
Blue Overall
Hard rocking and quirky, this is great stuff. It definitely has some punky edges to it.

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