Big Big Train - Bard

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Treefrog Records
Catalog Number: TFCD001
Format: CD
Total Time: 67:36:00

Patience is a virtue, and one that rarely goes by unrewarded when used wisely. Take, for instance, Big Big Train's new album Bard. After listening to "Broken English" for the first time, many a listener would be inclined to complain about the noodling synthesizer nonsense that rears its ugly face somewhere in the middle of the lengthy track, and then cry out in sheer indignation when faced by the quite poignant, although taken straight out of a Rush track whose name I can't quite remember now, finale. Those spurned by a short fuse would probably write off the album as utter rubbish right there and then. Those allowing time to take care of things, however, would come to discover a wonderful album of a pleasant laidback nature after leaving first impressions behind.

And thus virtue would be crowned with success. More importantly, however, justice would be done to this British act and its newest collection of gentle songs, the latter which are interrupted occasionally by sparse instrumental soundscapes that would remind one sooner of Tangerine Dream than of the line this band follows. Despite the short deviations, however, Bard is a unified statement that moves gently through a delicate web of often soft emotions, spun principally with strands of melancholy and sad love into a record that one would likely listen to sitting beside the fireplace and slowly looking through the pictures above the mantelpiece.

Do not confuse subtlety and the balance between gentle pop-like psychedelia and acoustic introspection for torpor though, as Big Big Train taps the slightly more forceful vein every once in a while in order to grant its songs the full emotional reach that they require. There is a sense of gradual building up, catchy construction, and expressive adequacy at play here, as well as a style that both seventies prog rock fanatics and enthusiastic neo-prog aficionados will easily be enamored with given the chance and enough time. And time is indeed the single most important factor in the appreciation of Bard, as the very few moments in which originality is suddenly lost or things seem about to meander hopelessly into the dreaded territories of kitsch lose almost all their importance after the balance is brought out in Big Big Train's favor at the end of a few good listens.

It would be hard to contest anyone's claim that the music of this act is sometimes too much of a throwback for its own good, or that Jo Michaels' vocal contributions are more often than not excess weight, but those making such statements would in turn be hard pressed to find proof denying that such weaknesses are nothing more than the small obstacles that keep this album from being a flawless experience. And while not flawless, it is an immensely gratifying one, uncovering its secret and simple charm as the listener becomes accustomed to its ebb and flow and finds shelter in the moving emotional shifts that Bard has to offer.

Similar artists: Porcupine Tree, Pineapple Thief, Pink Floyd

The Last English King (5:50) / Broken English (14:09) / This Is Where We Came In (5:22) / Harold Rex Interfectus Est (1:02) / Blacksmithing (3:03) / Maffosse (0:53) / Love Is Her Thing (3:50) / How The Earth From This Place Has Power Over Fire (1:53) / A Short Visit To The Earth (6:18) / For Winter (16:47) / A Long Finish (8:20)

Andy Poole - bass
Phil Hogg - drums
Gregory Spawton - guitars, keyboards, vocals
Tony Müller - keyboards, vocals
Ian Cooper - keyboards
Jo Michaels - vocals
Martin Read - vocals

From The River To The Sea (demos on self-released CD) (1992)
The Infant Hercules (demo cass) (1993)
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam (1994)
English Boy Wonders (1997)
Bard (2002)
Gathering Speed (2004/2009)
The Difference Machine (2007/2010)
English Boy Wonders (remade/remastered) (2008)
The Underfall Yard (2009/2011)
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam (remastered/expanded) (2011)
English Electric, Part One (2012)
English Electric, Part Two (2013)
Folklore (2016)
Grimspond (2017)
The Second Brightest Star (2017)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: July 16th 2002
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveryra
Artist website:
Hits: 1509
Language: english


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