When it comes to dessert rock and the world of fuzz there is one band that always come to the top of the list. Fu Manchu. The band's origins date back as far as 1985 but it wasn't until No Ones Rides For Free was released in 1994 that the really broke through onto the scene.
Twenty-four years and twelve albums on from that initial debut, the band are back with Clone of the Universe, a seven track monster of an album with a now stable line up featuring Scott Hill (vocals/guitar), Bob Balch (guitar), Brad Davis (bass) and Scott Reeder (drums).
The first half of the album delivers a more traditional mix of the Fu Manchu sound, six of the seven tracks feature in this half, kicking off with Intelligent Worship. Fuzzy riffs cause that warm feeling to rise up inside the lifelong fans. That comforting Fu Manchu vibe we know and love has not been lost.
(I've Been) Hexed has a wonderfully catchy lyrical lick that draws you into the song. Slow heavy riffs and a bassline to die for it's all here. Don't Panic a shorter sharper affair but with the same overall feel.
It’s safe to say if you’re looking for something expansive or a new direction from the band you’ve come to the wrong place. Fu Manchu are not ones to push the experimental envelope or attempt to broaden your horizons. This is out and out fuzzy stoner rock and if that’s your bag you are in luck.
Slower Than Light is much the same, let your imagination wander as the song takes you off on an acid trip of throbbing riffs a bass line that could well move your bowels all on its own.
Flipping over to the B side, the band do expand a little, they have produced an absolute monster of a song in Il Monstro Atomico, all 19 minutes of it. Now if there was ever a tune to trip along with, this is it. A magical concoction of flowing waves. The song builds and quietens just before crescendo, only to build again. The twists and turns it makes holds your attention for its entirety whilst containing almost no lyrical content, in fact Hill’s voice is heard for a little over 20 seconds of the nineteen-minute epic as the instruments do all the talking.
The album overall is hard to sum up; if you love all things fuzz then this is for you. And whilst I do, this album really does have one sound, especially the first half. It’s fantastic but at the same time it’s nothing new, its Fu Manchu by numbers and if that’s your bag you’ll love it. Il Monstro alone is worth buying the album for, but if this is your first foray into the genre, I might advise you to start elsewhere and return to Clone of the Universe a little later in your journey.