It’s in the air, it’s in the trees, it’s on the side of a pub in Lancaster (literally in the case of a huge Full Nelson album cover), it’s even in vocalist Baz’s beard. It is so tangible that you can literally touch it. It is that moment when a band ascends, where a star is born. You often read about this, that moment your favourite band goes overground. The excitement, the buzz but it’s not often that you are there to see that moment. Anyone who saw Massive Wagons in the smallest tent at Download Festival this summer will know exactly what I am talking about. It was packed to the gills in anticipation of Lancaster’s favourite band and the mood was one of a shared celebration, everyone knew all the words to all the biggest songs, the band could feel the vibe and it made them only play all the more harder, better and triumphantly. Weeks later we are all still all talking about that performance.
It all sounds great, doesn’t it? And now here we have Full Nelson, the first album for the band’s new label Earache and the anticipation is huge. After all, new stablemates The Temperance Movement were on the main stage the same day. What is perhaps a little bit more unusual is that Massive Wagons aren’t a new band, this is actually their third album and the band have already been going 8 years. 2015’s Welcome to the World is both a cracking album but also criminally ignored. Will Full Nelson change all of that?
After that introduction you know this can only go one of two ways, don’t you? It is going to either sidle over, offer a couple of catchy singles and a lot of damp squibs and we’ll stand and watch the trails of that moment disappear into the night or it’s going to come over, with a big beard, grab you by the throat, give you massive kiss on the head and start a mosh pit. There is no other way. Anyone who has already heard the singles “Under No Illusion”, “China Plates” and “Billy Balloon Head” will already have cracked open the beers and the party will be in full swing. This is the most vital, most anticipated and best album of 2018 without a doubt. For lovers of Welcome to My World you will not be disappointed, it’s an extension of that album and more, it is its big brother, it’s been a few more times around the block but this time it sees the goal and has a big grin on its face. For newcomers, if you are looking for a band to party to, to jump up and down to, to listen when you are alone, to listen with friends and basically mean something this, the album and band, is for you. Get on it.
So what about the album itself? I almost forgot, I have been too busy streaming it in advance to even tell you about it. Any pre-match nerves are instantly put to bed within about three chords of “Under No Illusion”, this is classic big single Massive Wagons. It is the way that they combine that escalating guitar chord structures with the catchy choruses that make tracks like this work so well. This is fist pumping, singalong start to the album. If that isn’t enough it is instantly followed by “China Plates”. Hang on what’s this? This is a classic Massive Wagons big sing along, hits you in the heart, fist pumping, give it all type of song as well. Excellent, that’s the live set sorted then.
The reason that Massive Wagons have all the bases covered isn’t because they can write choruses to die for but because all of their songs, seem to speak to you, triumphant in one minute but also there is something deeper behind it all. The type that draws you in and gives you moments to reflect and think and that is what I love about Full Nelson, they have yet again been able to combine these two elements together superbly. Three of my favourite songs on the album have that deeper connection. “Northern Boy” is one of those, although I will admit when I first heard this as a stand-alone track it almost passed me by but the gentle and melodic intro and sincere lyrics totally drew me in on the album each and any every time I listened through. It’s a classic rock track of the underachievers battling through life. “Hate Me” is another track that combines a great musical build up with thoughtful lyrics that by the very nature of vocalist Baz’s delivery cannot also help but be catchy. Also included is a tribute to Rick Parfitt of Status Quo in the form of last year’s “Back to the Stack”. Before I knew the meaning behind the song we had already commented on the fact that the song sounded like Status Quo. It is a well written and humble tribute to a musical hero somewhat forgotten amongst other big name losses in the last couple of years
The album concludes with Massive Wagons biggest two songs from their last album “Ratio” and “Tokyo”. Yes, I love these songs they are incredible, and yes, I do understand why the need to add them to their first major release. If you are new to Massive Wagons these songs are huge but for me they are perfectly placed on Welcome to the World, so feel like an afterthought here. That said, you heard these two songs, wait to you hear them live!
Simple conclusion, Full Nelson delivers on all that anticipation and buzz. This is an album that is equally triumphant as much as it will become an album you will simply full in love with and will become a soundtrack to the next 18 months. If these guys are not on the road to Toyko by Christmas then it really will be time to look at the way the music business works. The more you listen to this the more you will love it. Album of the year.
Full Nelson is out August 10th