Massive Wagons are one of the more prolific New Wave of Classic Rock bands, with this the third of their albums I've reviewed here at Apocalypse Later. They're knocking out a new one every two years nowadays and they just snuck this one in at the end of 2022. It continues their growth too, in a few ways that I expected and a few that I didn't. It's the most immediate of the three, which to a fan of the band is rather like saying that this water is the most wet, and it's the most to the point, only two songs out of a baker's dozen making it past four minutes. There are no sprawling bluesy numbers this time out. It's just in your face pop/punk/rock that won't quit.
As I said last time out, with House of Noise, they're also one of the more recognisable NWoCR acts with this never mistakable for anyone else. Part of that is because their influences are a bit newer than the norm. Instead of nods back to Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, they're more interested in TerrorVision and Wolfsbane. Sure, there's some obvious AC/DC on A.S.S.H.O.L.E. and some Iron Maiden in the title track's guitars, but most of this comes out of the nineties. The Status Quo influence is a little less obvious here, but it's still there in the catchy three minute template.
I'm hearing a lot of pop punk on this one too. They're still a rock band at heart and they're always going to have a a strong following of ground level fans at rock bars up and down the UK who know everyone, have heard everything and just want to sit down at the bar for a pint, but have to get up when the Wagons hit the stage because they diffuse energy to every corner of a room and that's a rare and precious thing. However, their bouncy rock style crosses over into pop punk often here, to hopefully trawl in another set of fans. Fuck the Haters, the subtle manifesto of an opener, is a rock take on pop punk and it's not the last.
The other crowd I'd love to see at a Massive Wagons gig are pop fans, because I'd love to know how they'd feel about the band. Unlike Battle Beast, whose 2022 album I reviewed yesterday, you can't just swap filters on songs here to turn them from metal to pop, but it would seem like fans of a bouncy sort of pop music, say Taylor Swift, might just be blown away by this bouncy sort of rock music. The fact that they're very culturally aware in their lyrics probably helps. And, quite frankly, while this is rock not rap, Baz Mills is so precise in his delivery of those lyrics that he's goddamn spitting bars in a whole slew of tracks. Check out the closer, No Friends of Mine, to see what I mean.
If everything I've just set gives you the impression that they're selling out with this record, I would like to dissuade you of that notion right now. This is fundamentally a guitar album, from moment one to moment last, even if Please Stay Calm kicks off with such an eighties guitar that sounds like a keyboard that I'm still trying to figure out which Def Leppard song they snatched it from. It's the guitar sound on the title track from Hysteria but heavier and faster. Whichever doesn't matter, it's the poppiest part of the album and it's still guitar. This is guitar music. Don't forget that.
But, at their heaviest, on a song like Generation Prime, which explodes into action and only ramps up from there, they transition seamlessly into some sassy reggae just for fun and then back again. It's priceless and it's done incredibly well. It also plays into the primary driving force that keeps a band like Massive Wagons doing what they do and that's fun. Sure, they need to pay the bills and I have no doubt they have to play music because it's who they are and all that jazz, all the reasons to be in a band, but there are few bands who seem more like every member is simply having the time of their lives when the're playing music. This isn't five musicians. It's five individual limbs who plug into each other to become complete. They're a giant robot that's formed from a superhero squad.
I have a feeling that this is better than the 7/10 I'm going to give it but it's less varied than House of Noise and Full Nelson and it's a little too slick for my tastes. I think, at this point, I want to hear a live Massive Wagons album, because they're not touring in Arizona and that's going to how I get to experience what they sound like live, which I expect to be utterly involving. Even with that 7/10, nobody does this better.