There are few bands that can do what Genesis did in their early days. They gave the 1970s a masterful piece of crafty songwriting and witty musicality in the form of incredible works art such as Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. They had very worthy solo artists like Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. And, they were served as a valuable piece of progressive rock. Now, to move ahead 30 to 40 years later, and modern progressive rock is back underground. However, that doesn’t mean anything. A new prog rock group was planting its roots to the ground in preparation to continue the lyrical expertice and other similar characteristics sprouting from Genesis. Come the year 2009, and after building up experience from their last few albums, Big Big Train has finally struck a rich sounding album that has worthy Genesis influences, The Underfall Yard, a new exciting entry for prog rock.
What makes The Underfall Yard so brilliant? Well, for one part, it is the way Big Big Train captures songwriting and musicality in a way almost mirrored to that of Genesis. Like them, Big Big Train and their vocalist, Dave Longdon, don’t seem to connect very well with the sexual energy contained in most mainstream albums. Instead, they also rely upon 19th and 20th century tales of England to decorate their music. From train conductors, flooding foundations, to Victorian engineers, the lyrics are epic, interesting, exciting, and act in similar methods to Peter Gabriel’s songwriting style in a positive, modern reinforcement. Not only are the lyrics ace, so are Longdon’s Gabriel-esque vocals. They represent an incredible resurrection of the original Genesis frontman. This is very difficult to beat. Finally, something else that is Genesis-inspired in The Underfall Yard is the musical structures. Take for example, songs like The Underfall Yard, Victorian Brickwork, and Evening Star sound very similar to famous early Genesis works such as Supper’s Ready, Watcher of the Skies, The Cinema Show, The Fountain of Salmacis, and Time Table. But that isn’t all of the pie to The Underfall Yard.
Big Big Train also tries to make themselves sound unique at the same time. The result is a profound, modern rendition of a prog rock journey that stretches well over an hour. By the way, it is a good hour. Examples include the classically-fused instrumental motifs expressed my guest musicians, such as Rich Evans, Dave Desmond, Jon Foyle, Nick Stones, and Jon Fruscott. At the same time, The Underfall Yard hasn’t lost a necessary rock attitude that still gives the band credibility towards their own music. In fact, the balance between these two impression is controlled mostly in a positive manner. This is cheers to ex-Spock’s Beard Nick D’Virgilio, Andy Poole, and Gregory Spawton, who have began to figure out the good way to creatively hold and express progressive rock. In a way, this also represents how unique Big Big Train is.
All in all, The Underfall Yard was a mostly positive result of past prog rock influences, daring modern pursuits, a plethora of musical talent, and the creative songwriting prowess. They built upon themselves in their previous albums, gained inspiration from a former prog rock titan, and executed a truly complex album as a result. Not just complex, but also noteworthy. Perhaps, the members of Genesis might be proud of these guys.