I thoroughly enjoyed Full Nelson, the fourth Massive Wagons album, which was one of the first to fall under the banner of New Wave of Classic Rock that I reviewed here at Apocalypse Later. I thoroughly enjoyed this one too but I'm in two minds as to whether it's better or not.
It's certainly just as energetic, if not more so, with my personal highlight of Pressure punkier and extra lively. It finds the singalong Status Quo vibe that Back to the Stack did last time out and I think this one's even better. I'd call the production easily better too, which especially serves the first few upbeat rockers really well. It's one of those albums you always want to turn up, even if you're at maximum volume already and the neighbours are on the phone with the cops.
I'd say that the first half is even more consistent too, In It Together and Bangin in Your Stereo stonking openers but the title track able to add just a little something more to the mix. There's some Thin Lizzy in that one but it's never derivative. Looking back over the last couple of years, it's fair to say that Massive Wagons still sound like Massive Wagons, even against the growing roster of New Wave of Classic Rock acts.
I think it's because their set of influences are completely different from all those bands who are looking back at Led Zeppelin and Bad Company. Their sound comes from Quo and Terrorvision, with a dash of Lizzy here and another of AC/DC there and maybe a little bit of pop punk to keep it all bouncing so well.
Certainly Hero tries to be an AC/DC song but, while I do rather like it, it isn't very successful at that. The opening Bon Scott prowl is beyond Baz Mills, who finds better success as the song shifts towards and away from Brian Johnson, and a steady drone isn't a good replacement for what aches to be a rumbling bass line. However, there is a really nice guitar solo here from either Adam Thistlethwaite or Stevie Holl and there's a really nice vibe behind it too.
I'm less enthused about the second half of the album than the first, even if it starts off so well with Pressure. The Curry Song is capable but even more stupid than the stupidest song on the prior album, even if it has quite the decent mosh part, and I can't quite get into Glorious and Hallescrewya, even though I rather want to. As fun as they are, especially with the Lizzy-esque dual solo on the former, they're still distant.
One obvious change from last time is the song lengths. While most songs here continue to sit in the three to four minute range, easily worthy of airplay, there are longer songs here. Hallescrewya takes the place of Northern Boy as the one that nudges past five minutes, but Hero makes it past six and Matter of Time, which closes out the album, runs a full eight.
It's definitely worthy of mention because it's a slower, bluesier song with plenty of opportunity for solos, which are excellent. The guitarists stay a little restrained throughout the album, presumably for the sake of commercial appeal, the Randy Rhoads-esque intro to Sad Sad Song notwithstanding, but a longer song or three do give them the opportunity to shine and I appreciated that. Energetic radio friendly hard rock songs are great and all but sometimes I just want sit back and enjoy the hell out of a good guitar solo.
So this is at once a greater and a lesser album than Full Nelson and, after a few listens, I think I'm going to rate it slightly lower. It's still a must for New Wave of Classic Rock fans though.