Big Rig - Expansive Heart [EP] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Big Rig

Expansive Heart [EP] (1994)


There may not have been a bigger year for punk rock since the mid-1980’s than 1994. Before the year was out, we would see Green Day release the chart topping Dookie, Rancid would get their first taste of mainstream acceptance with Let’s Go, NOFX would do the same with Punk In Drublic, and The Offspring would release Smash which would go on to become the greatest selling album released on an independent label ever. Buried within these releases, was a 4-song, 9-minute EP called Expansive Heart by the band Big Rig with the incendiary Jesse Michaels on vocals.

The EP opens with the title track, which finds Jesse keeping alive much of his world weariness while singing about the planet he calls home and the beings that live on it. Bringing love and peace together with war, death, and loss he paints a picture of planet being murdered and fighting back. This track also features perhaps my favorite lyrics from the album, “its animals fuck with superhuman vigor and die in time to fertilize the deep woods.” Perhaps, not on par with the best lines he got off in Operation Ivy, Common Rider, or Classics of Love … but a solid lyric within the context of the song.

The next track, “Will Alone,” kicks off with the proclamation “one day down, a thousand years to go.” In an era where many bands were singing almost exclusively lyrics about depression or with self deprecating undertones, Jesse Michaels proved to stand as a breath of fresh air. Never one to shy away from self analysis, he certainly would examine himself and the human condition as a whole in Operation Ivy and continue doing so throughout his career. But, he does so with a sense of resolve to push through and that something is to be gained from whatever is taking place.

The fourth track, “New Fist”, is as close to a throwaway track as you’ll find on here. While it’s still leaps and bounds above a lot of the material that is on the album, I’ve found that it is the one track I can skip when I am listening to this.

The album closes with, “Persistence”, and it features more of the same positivity in the face of adversity I spoke of on the track “Will Alone.” The third verse features another classic line from Jesse Michaels, “Do not say that we are safe, our home town is filled with bitter drunks building guns. Do not say that we are lost, persistence could change even this persistence is a burning sun.” Sadly, one is left to wonder what would have taken place had Big Rig stuck it out for a proper LP release in the wake of punk rock finding a place on the Billboard Chart in 1994.

While Jesse Michael’s output has certainly been more sporadic than other Op Ivy alums, he seems to have a better understanding of quality control. Operation Ivy, even at their worst, still had so much energy, honesty, and desperation you could forgive them for it. Big Rig, while nowhere near the heights of Op Ivy … or even Common Rider keeps that desperation alive. There certainly have been bigger names to come out of the Gilman Street scene. But, for me, Jesse Michaels is the one artist who never lost that energy, desperation, and honesty that made that scene a holy trinity for some. Rancid is great, Green Day are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … but Jesse Michaels is in a class all by himself.