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‘Our band was never and will never be just the ‘Barry Mills Show’ – Massive Wagons, Full Nelson Review

Genre: Hard Rock

Label: Earache

Release Date: Out Now

Line Up: 

Baz Mills, – Vocals,
Adam Thistlethwaite, – Guitar,
Stevie Holl, – Guitar,
Adam Bowz Bouskill, – Bass,
Alex Thistlethwaite, – Drums,

Tracklisting: 

1) Under No Illusion

2) China Plates

3 ) Billy Balloon Head

4) Sunshine Smile

5) Northern Boy

6) Robot (Trust In Me)

7) Back To The Stack

8) Hate Me

9) Last on the List

10) Ballad of Verdun Hayes

11) Ratio

12) Tokyo

When we first reviewed Massive Wagons debut album back in 2014, we said it was a release containing some of the downright loudest, downright ballsiest hard rock anthems of the year. In addition noting that Motorhead were once dubbed as “The heaviest band in the universe”, with Fight The System our reviewer was sure this statement would be changed. Generously referring to the ‘loud as fuck’ production, the ‘ball dropping heaviness’ of ‘One For Me’, ‘Rising Tides’ and ‘Black Witch’, they surmised that ‘Fight The System’ would be one of the loudest albums you will ever own in your collection. 

2016’s ‘Welcome To The World’ offered more of the same with opening track ‘Nails’ rivalling anything an on form Metallica could hope to deliver. Singles ‘Tokyo’ and ‘Ratio’ helped generate a solid following behind the band and it’s on ‘Full Nelson’ , the band’s first album on Earache and the first to get a proper worldwide release that they get included again, worthy of inclusion for a much much wider audience.  

 

We spoke recently to guitarist Adam Thistlethwaite about the album and the inclusion of the tracks from ‘Welcome…’ and as he rightly pointed out, outside of the UK and Europe, no one really knows Massive Wagons and those two tracks, slotted in at the end of the new album are a perfect reminder of what’s come before and deserve a much bigger audience. If it encourages people to check out the earlier releases then the band’s and the label’s work is done. If you think you’re being short changed, check the tracklisting on Green Day’s breakthrough album, the multi-million selling ‘Dookie’. Welcome to Paradise’ first appeared on second album ‘ Kerplunk’ back in 1991. The third album is what it’s all about so maybe ‘Full Nelson’ will become a ‘Dookie’ for Massive Wagons. 

Over the course of the last few years, Massive Wagons has generated significant UK interest through their writing and their infectious, humourous and electric live performances. Front man Baz Mills, a bearded man with a hat (as is the way of front men at the moment) exudes energy like no other and could own the stage and the crowd single handedly. Mentioning the fact to Adam that it’s good to see him and the rest of the band move front and centre for solo spots rather than leaving it all to Baz results in a chuckle down the phone line and the comment that the band was never and will never be just the ‘Barry Mills Show’ and that the unit are really a tightly knot band with most of the members being there since day one. It’s resulted in a stage show where it really is as mesmerising watching Adam pull of solo after solo that fit seamlessly into the songs whilst Barry flies round the stage like a man desperate for the loo only to discover all the cubicles are in use. It all adds up the perfect performance and it’s also a performance that translates perfectly from studio to stage and back again. 

Tracks like ‘Back to the Stack’, itself a tribute to the late, great, Rick Parfitt sounds just as powerful as it does when performed on stage. It’s also the first track from the new album that was released as a single back in April 2017. It highlights a more mainstream, hard rock side of the band and is a far cry away from the Motorhead-esque ‘loud as fuck’ production, the ‘ball dropping heaviness’ of ‘One For Me’ or ‘Rising Tides’. It is the moment though where the labels started to sit up, take notice and the Earache release of ‘Full Nelson’ provides the exposure to the world stage that the band more than deserve. 

 

Highlights and songs that could only be written by lads from the North of England with a sense of humour include ‘Billy Balloon Face’, ‘Northern Boy’ [natch] and ‘Ballad of Verdun Hayes’ . The latter refers to a D-day veteran who recently became the world’s oldest skydiver at 101 and 38 days. 

The album cover is something that has generated more interest in the band than they could ever have dreamt of. Unveiled on the side of ‘The Pub’ in Lancaster, a venue that marks ‘where it all began’ according to Adam, the album cover appeared on the side of the building covering the entire wall. not as an advert but really a display of art given the amount of effort that had gone into the design. 

Surprisingly (or not if you deal with Lancaster City Council planning committees on a regular basis) the pub has been ordered to remove the giant mural that sits on the gable end of the building. It was, according to Adam, a misunderstanding, a lack of knowledge about what was and wasn’t allowed to displayed. Art yes, adverts no and the council saw the mural very much as an advertisement for the album rather than a piece of art celebrating the rise of a local band.

A fan led petition to let the mural stay resulted in a stay of execution and at the last piece of news from Adam suggests that conversations with the planning department at Lancaster City Council should resolve the matter amicably. In the meantime, advertising or not, any press is good press and the news agencies and music media outlets have all jumped on the (Massive) bandwagon and reported the events of recent months that have now, recently resulted in the album landing, on week of release, inside the top 20 of the national album charts in the UK. Not just the rock charts, online charts and other sub genres, this is the big daddy, the albums chart that saw the band sandwiched between Anne-Marie and Proclaimers. 

It’s a success story that the British public will lap up. A true underdog story of Northern lads come good and it’s a well deserved one. The album to quote another northern phrase is “truly belter” and warrants the solid score below; 

Score: 9/10

Reviewed by Adrian Hextall  

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