Album Review: Massive Wagons – “Full Nelson”
Perennial live favourites, Lancaster lads Massive Wagons have been putting in the miles for the past few years to get their ridiculously entertaining rock anthems out to the masses, supporting such luminaries as The Wildhearts, Von Hertzen Brothers and even Status Quo along the way. Having now signed to Earache, the Wagons are ready to step up another rung on the musical ladder with fourth album, Full Nelson.
A decade into their career and having experienced their first line-up change with rhythm guitarist Carl Cochrane replaced by Stephen Holl, it’s go big or go home time for the Wagons and with Full Nelson, they certainly come out fighting. Already well-known for banging out stadium rock classics, the early release of singles like Under No Illusion showed that the band haven’t missed a beat, knocking out a fist-pumping, cowbell-twatting anthem that would sound equally at home at Download (a festival the band well and truly conquered this year) as it would on a smaller, sweatier club stage.
China Plates is an ode to the ridiculous and superficial nature of social media (played out here in a more jovial fashion than on Tony Wright’s more emotional Delete Repeat), and it’s a pacey little outing that tears out of the traps fast enough to get your feet tapping, veering briefly into a little Breaking The Law riff for good measure. Elsewhere, there’s a bit of Guns N’ Roses snake-hipped sleaze to Sunshine Smile while the heavier chorus of Robot (Trust In Me) is pure Alice In Chains in its combination of harmony and grungy riffing.
The Wagons can still throw in some emotion too, especially when they slow things down a bit with the honest Northern Boy, a snappy rock ballad, but one that doesn’t quite hit the heights you expect of it, unlike the re-recorded version of the band’s Rick Parfitt tribute Back To The Stack which never fails to get hairs standing on end as lead singer Baz Mills toasts his hero. Hate Me borrows a little of Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated before a chorus that’s begging for a bit of call and response out on the road and another tune sure to get crowds shifting is Last On The List, which doesn’t take long to plunge into an irresistibly bouncy melody.
Following Ballad Of Verdun Hayes, a passionate yet laid back ode to a centenarian sky diver, Full Nelson closes out with two tracks from the Wagons’ previous record Welcome To The World in the shape of Ratio and Tokyo. Presumably a ploy to get two of the finest crowd-pleasers of the past decade into the ears of new audiences, the move backfires a little as they feel out of place and highlights that there isn’t really as “big” a new song across the length of this latest record as there were in droves on its predecessor. Yes, Full Nelson has got its moments and each track is as catchy and likeable as you’d expect, it’s just missing the heavy urgency of Nails, the sea-shanty epic-ness of The Day We Fell or the hands-aloft sing-along addiction of Aeroplane. There are still plenty of growers here though, and there’s no doubting that Massive Wagons have thrown heart and soul at a record their fans will love.
Massive Wagons can certainly write a catchy tune or two, that was never in doubt. What they do with Full Nelson though is take things a little more mainstream, closer to their retro-classic rock influences rather than the more metallic assault they dabbled in previously, which gives the record less of a varied feel. Nevertheless, there are sure-to-be live favourites here and the fun is still front and centre, just as it should be.