Fu Manchu – King of the Road

Fu Manchu
King of the Road

“Hey, dude, Mountain is on the phone, and they want their sound back.”
One thing to know about Fu Manchu – people either get it or they don’t. The listener shouldn’t expect to hear innovative guitar parts, thought-provoking lyrics, or even vocal melodies. This is what I call a “guilty pleasure,” the musical equivalent of an eight dollar shot of tequila. This is music one might listen to when no one else is around, or something to turn on at a party. If you’re hoping to impress the cute indie girl (or guy) with the Buddy Holly glasses at the Dianogah show, this album is not the ideal conversation-starter. (Trust me on this one.) It is not for everyone, but this band is just about the best at what they do.
Fu Manchu’s sound is as heavy and slushy as you can get. Think Blue Cheer, Mountain, and Cream, and you’re getting the picture. Lyrically, don’t look much further than Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemount High (and consider that “No Dice” on the album was inspired by this character)! The focus here is the chemistry of the band and the thicker-than-hell guitar sound. Live is the way to hear them, but having this CD is like hiring Fu Manchu to play in your back seat, and there is no finer driving music out there today. Brant Bjork (formerly of sludge-lords Kyuss) drums with a punk-like intensity, firmly keeping this material out of the Ted Nugent spectrum. The guy is an absolute animal and will provoke many to air-drum uncontrollably. Scotty Hill’s caveman riffs are repeatedly beat into your skull and makes the listener realize that it actually takes balls to write music like this and put his name on it. But it really makes me smile, and God bless him for it.
A lot of people are taking note of the growing “stoner rock” scene, in which Fu Manchu certainly fits. (The “White Album” of stoner rock is 1991’s “Spine of God” by Monster Magnet . I know, they are pretty cheesy now, but that album is a lo-fi masterpiece! Go buy it.) Don’t let the term “Stoner Rock” scare you – no one needs to do drugs to listen to this. (Like you needed an excuse!) Pretty much everyone tagged as stoner rock has one thing in common: This is what heavy metal music would have been like if Eddie Van Halen were never born. Or if the 80’s never happened at all. But if you can find nothing redeemable about Black Sabbath, chances are you won’t like many bands in this category, either.
So, for God’s sake, don’t over-think this one. Take your fist, extend your thumb, index finger and pinky, stick it out the nearest window, and shake it madly to the freedom rock on this album. It’s the perfect ear-cleaner after overdosing on emo and math-rock.