If ever a band seemed determined to keep one foot in the pub and the other on the monitors of an enormodome (spiritually if not physically), it’s this Lancaster mob. Not an easy balance to maintain, but in the process they’re slowly carving themselves a niche in British rock that sounds unique to them. On this sixth album Massive Wagons show that they’re also fine-tuning their formula.
And for a band who pride themselves on providing a supremely fun night out, they’re not scared to be topical or make a point or two about the turbulent popular culture swirling around them. ‘I try not to swear in our songs… fuck the haters,’ goes the deathless chorus of the opener and recent single, punctuating marginally more subtle verses taking aim at online trolls and bullies of all stripes.
So yeah, they still want to rock and roll all night. But their minds are on something a little more profound than just partying every day. No Friend Of Mine digs at the curiously tenuous relationships found on social media, Generation Prime skewers complacent, entitled peers expecting the world by next-day delivery, and the title track swipes at culture warriors’ intolerance fuelled by galloping spandex-trousered attack.
It’s never without humour, though – perhaps to their detriment. Their ability to make The Darkness sound like Crass in the gag-averse stakes will surely see them perennially cursed with the ‘joke band’ tag. But then a song like A.S.S.H.O.L.E. will resonate far more powerfully than any nuanced treatise on social mores could ever do, while making the same points, because if you can get people punching the air and screaming along, you’re already winning the battle for hearts and minds.
More withering social satire abounds on Please Stay Calm’s modern-day Kinksian vignette where a politely rebellious protagonist admits, ‘I’m sinking foot-long subs with extra cheese… I deliberately drove through amber lights… 33 in the 30 causin’ a scene.’ But in each case the booming hooks and thumping choruses are present and correct. Meanwhile, although opinions may divide over the ska interludes on Generation Prime (featuring Dub War/Skindred main man Benji Webbe on guest vocals), their attempts to inject fiercer thrash metal doses into Sawdust show their breaks from their own musical formula can pay dividends.
Maybe their very British, punky and unpretentious attitude will mean Massive Wagons never quite reach the arenas these songs seem tailor-made for. But we’re firmly on board their souped-up transit van heading that way.