Massive Wagons are indeed massive, in their hometown of Carnforth in the northwest of England. So much so, that their loyal band of followers organized a huge mural of the cover of their forthcoming album, Full Nelson to be painted on a wall in the nearby town of Lancaster.
On hearing the record I’m not surprised. This album is brim-full of top quality tracks. It rocks, it rolls, has variety, emotion and, in no small quantity, intelligence.
Full Nelson is the band’s fourth full-length album, following on from Fire It Up (2012), Fight the System (2014) and Welcome to the World (2016) and will be available from August 10, 2018, on Earache Records.
We start with “Under No Illusion”, and what a start it is. “We’re singing to you, sing it back to me” implores frontman Baz Mills and that’s all I want to do during this opening rocker, which lays down an impressive marker for the rest of the album.
“China Plates” follows which is a damning indictment of Facebook but is said in such an intelligent way. And it rocks, too, so something for everybody there. This is also the first track where I notice Baz’s vocal similarity to Dexter Holland of The Offspring. Plenty of power in there. Check out the lyric video below.
There’s more social commentary on “Billy Balloon Head” which tackles racism and general intolerance in today’s society. Apparently, from where the band hail, a ‘Billy balloon head’ is one who is not very nice, tolerant open-minded or the least bit intelligent. I’m sure we all know someone like that.
It may sound so far like Full Nelson is a bit profound but the way the music is performed is proper traditional heavy rock with the odd deviation to more differing styles, such as the post-punk vibe to the less serious “Summer Smile” which hails rocking out in the summer sunshine.
Things are taken down a notch or two on “Northern Boy”, and whilst not being quite a ballad it does have the constituent parts such as slower entrancing rhythm, melancholic lyrics and emotional guitar. The solo, in particular, is a highlight. The song expresses beautifully life in a working-class family from the north of England.
“Robot (Trust in Me)” takes a real departure from the norm. Remember my reference to The Offspring? This track is reminiscent of them in their Smash days; punky, slightly aggressive and threatening.
It’s back to classic rock for “Back to the Stack” and the band’s tribute to the late Rick Parfitt. The whole track is underpinned by the classic “Caroline” riff and Status Quo is referenced throughout. Absolutely love it.
“Hate Me” is a mid-paced rocker, catchy as you like, but with still with a load of balls. What all these songs have in common is the ability to make you want to join in and be part of the experience, not be just an outsider listening in. Go on, shout yourselves hoarse and love it!
Any song containing the lyric “Christ on a bike” gets my vote and “Last on the List” does exactly that. This is a crowd-pleaser, no doubt, which will get the audience up and bouncing. Great riffs abound, catchy chorus, what more do you want?
“Ballad of Verdun Hayes” is of a style reminiscent of the Kaiser Chiefs but the song itself is a fascinating look at lives constricted by rules and what can be achieved by doing what you want. Verdun Hayes, you see, became the oldest person to skydive at 101 years old (he was also a D-Day veteran) so he was hardly the conformist.
The final two tracks have been culled from Massive Wagons’ previous album, Welcome to the World, but it matters little, they’re two total winners.
More power and emotion is felt on “Ratio” and yet more opportunities to join in a singalong and play the old air guitar. Play it like nobody’s watching…
Sadly, here comes the final track, “Tokyo” but what a finish. One last chance to sing your heart out, this time about Massive Wagons’ commitment to their fans despite the lack of support from, er, ‘other parties’. More great guitar work enhances an already cracking track.
Overall Full Nelson is a top quality album full of great rockers, melody and intelligence.
Massive Wagons deserve not just to be massive in the northwest of England, but massive worldwide. They should be playing in Tokyo, not Todmorden.