Big Big Train - The Second Brightest Star,
Having been blown away by the sheer beauty of ‘Grimspound’ earlier this year, I certainly wasn’t expecting another album just yet, so when I received an email telling me about this I was incredibly excited. The album features forty minutes of new songs and instrumentals which explore landscapes, rivers and meeting places and take the listener on voyages of discovery across the world and to the stars. Alongside the new tracks, there is a bonus selection of thirty minutes of music where songs from the last two albums are presented in extended format. I know I shouldn’t be surprised at just how mature this music sounds, given that I have known the band for some twenty-five years now, but it continues to delight and entrance me to see how this band have grown and changed. Nick D'Virgilio is probably my favourite drummer in modern progressive music, and I have always loved watching him play, yet with BBT one doesn’t notice the complexity of what he is doing unless one listens for it, as he is so much at one with the rest of the band.
The use of so many different instruments within an octet allows them to layer sounds that would be beyond many others, but the pastoral progressive sound they create never overpowers David Longdon’s rich vocals. They are a very English band in so many ways, and not just when they are singing about London, as they evoke a feeling not of the current age, but of times gone past when the world was a simpler place. But, there is never anything simple about the music they are performing, but it never feels heavy handed or over the top. It is fresh and bright, never leaden or conspiring to show what everyone can do just because they’re proggers, but rather the music always seems perfect and on point, with all the musicians doing exactly what is required. This can mean that they sometimes provide accompaniment to others as opposed to demanding a lead role, or may even sit out sections of songs if that is what is right for the music.
Big Big Train will feature at the top of many music critic’s albums of the year, and that there may be a doubt only about whether it is this or ‘Grimspound’ shows just how important the band has become. Truly wonderful, in so many ways.