Despite a global pandemic derailing gigs, it’s been a very productive couple of years for British prog band Big Big Train. They released a critically acclaimed album, ‘Common Ground’ during the first half of 2021, and another new album is expected in the early part of 2022.
In the meantime, they’re set to warm the cockles of prog fans with a surprise new single, ‘Proper Jack Froster’.
The track’s lyrical concerns reawaken many childhood memories and, in doing so, are particularly vivid throughout, with pictures painted of sledging, of friendships in sub zero temperatures and the small town pleasures they bring. Just as the band have been known for their striking lyrical imagery from a pastoral viewpoint, their gifts for making cold and potentially bleak landscapes seem incredibly inviting are just as effective. However, it’s the music that wins out here, since ‘Proper Jack Froster’ comes with an absolutely stunning – and surprisingly catchy – arrangement. A multi-layered and very rich melody grows from violin and ringing guitar, moving into a very Paul McCartney-esque rumpty tumpty rhythm driven by Greg Spawton’s bass. He brings a hefty bottom end, but never masks the subtler parts of the arrangement which, by now, have grown to include some fantastic electric piano flourishes. The vocal melody moves between the busy bounce and a proggier mournfulness with ease, and although frontman David Longdon sounds a little scratchy at first, he very quickly reaches within himself for a deeper tone which works brilliantly against a selection of great harmonies for the bulk of the performance.
Once a slower passage and violin return, there’s something at the heart of the song that’ll feel so much more familiar to lovers of the last couple of BBT long players, but this feels like so much more than a retread of past recordings. By the time the inevitable climax is reached, Longdon seems in particularly good voice as he calls out against a wall of harmonies, themselves sounding like a very welcome throwback to some of the biggest moments on the much loved ‘English Electric’ double set. There’s so much about ‘Proper Jack Froster’ that’s familiar, yet at the same time, it has a heart and optimism that promises so, so much more for the next full length release. This is undoubtedly a track fans will love, but accessible enough to bring new people to the band.
Take a listen below.