Last year saw the release of an amazing album by a band that has been around the block: Big Big Train. The album, “English Electric, Part 1”, inferred another album to follow, and this year Big Big Train have delivered. “English Electric, Part 2” is the second part of an opus that pines and reminisces about the good ol’ English working man. These songs are not always happy, for these working men have and always will be taken advantage of by those in power. I do believe that Part 1 was a little more impactful and emotive in the presentation of the sorrow ("A Boy in Darkness" blew me away last year) and the nostalgia, however. Still, it’s a nice atmosphere.
Part 1 saw Big Big Train at its finest: Last year’s album floored me in terms of melody, composition, and overall quality. It was on my Top 10 list for 2012, and I can see myself listening to it for many years to come. Part 2, on the other hand, does not quite reach the same greatness. Honestly, however, I do not think anyone can fairly expect the same level of excellence, for Part 1 was an album for the ages: an instant classic.
What makes Part 2 inferior, you ask? I’m not sure I would use the word “inferior”. It certainly does not jive with me as perfectly as Part 1, but the overall composition, melody, theme, and quality are all there. In fact, without Part 1, this album may have blown me away completely. This band has the chops that many metal bands do not even have, and they can play an eclectic range of instruments, from the flute to the mellotron and many others. They have the compositional skills that many in the prog world covet as they can craft perfect songs from epics (such as the track "East Coast Racer") to ballads ("Leopards"). If anything, I feel that the songs are not quite as catchy or instantly classic as on Part 1, but only by a small margin. Their music is always interesting, and the gorgeous flute and violin accompaniments set them apart from many other bands. This album has all of this and more.
The band even made sure that Part 1 and Part 2 feel like parts
of a whole as the overture from the track “Hedgerow” on Part 1 makes an
appearance at the end of this album. I feel that it tied up the opus quite
nicely. So, this album has everything that made Part 1 great, yet I feel that it
is slightly lacking. The only reason I can think up is that Big Big Train outdid
themselves---just in reverse. They built up hype for this album simply by
releasing such an amazing album last year, but they couldn’t top it this year.
It is a little bit disappointing, but not so much when you realize the heights
that they would have to scale in order to top Part 1. In terms of
favorites, right now I would point to "Keeper of Abbeys" and "Curator of
Butterflies" as the best tracks, although "East Coast Racer" is excellent as
In terms of favorites, right now I would point to "Keeper of Abbeys" and "Curator of Butterflies" as the best tracks, although "East Coast Racer" is excellent as well.
All in all, Big Big Train beat themselves at their own game. They released an instant classic in 2012, but still managed to release another excellent album in 2013. All the elements are here for great prog rock, but this release is less impactful and emotive than Part 1. No matter what, however, this is a must-own album for fans of prog rock.