Fu Manchu

Clone Of The Universe

Written by: AP on 11/03/2018 12:40:20

Formed in Southern California in 1985, Fu Manchu has been putting out records at a steady pace for nearly quarter of a century now and in that process, they have developed a reputation as the ‘AC/DC of stoner rock’ — for better or worse. For although the quality of Fu Manchu’s output has tended to remain on the right side of the average mark, it is hard to argue with the general consensus that the band’s best work is consigned to the late ‘90s and early ’00s, when albums such as 1997’s “The Action Is Go” and 2000’s “King of the Road” were said to be providing the blueprint for how the genre should sound. “California Crossing” marked the end of that era in 2001 and a cynic might say that much of what Fu Manchu has released since then has simply been an excuse for hitting the road for another tour — and to lend some weight to that argument, none of the material that comprises the four records released between 2001 and 2014 has managed to become a live staple. I thus hope that you will forgive me for having but meagre expectations for this twelfth and latest outing, “Clone of the Universe”.

Of course, the amount of experience that Fu Manchu has means that it would require either a drastic turn toward new musical horizons or a gross miscalculation for the band to fall through completely. “Clone of the Universe” thankfully sees the quartet sticking to their guns, so that although there are very few surprises among the seven concoctions of heavy fuzz, existing fans should find the material familiar enough to remain onboard. For much of the record, however, one does end up wishing that the band would disengage the autopilot and crank up the dial for ambition. There is nothing wrong with the likes of “(I’ve Been) Hexed” per se; you’ll be singing along to those titular refrains of ”I’ve been hexed!” in no time — especially when they hit a climax near the end, as an incandescent guitar solo by Bob Balch mingles with slabs of heavy, almost sinister riffage by frontman Scott Hill. It is a rare show of force amidst songs that get the job done but seldom impress, which makes it all the more ironic that the album concludes in the most audacious song that Fu Manchu has attempted to date: “Il Mostro Atomico”.

Clocking in at 18 minutes, its composition feels like something that came together on its own, rather than something that was consciously written and rehearsed. As such, the track plays out as a lengthy jam session reminiscent of Fu Manchu’s Southern California relatives in Earthless, with myriad riffs, kaleidoscopic solos and spacey effects sprawling out of a central groove laid down by drummer Scott Reeder and bassist Brad Davis. The various segments (each of which is almost a song in its own right) flow together so organically that one wonders why the four musicians have waited so long to embrace their adventurous selves and give their instrumental prowess free reign over a song. On the flipside though, much of the remaining material on “Clone of the Universe” feels like it was written out of an obligation to build a full-length album around the unexpected masterpiece, with songs like “Intelligent Worship” and “Don’t Panic” thus reduced to a filler role.

In that sense, “Clone of the Universe” is an ambivalent record. Half of its running length is dedicated to “Il Mostro Atomico”, which offers a glimmer of hope that Fu Manchu could be on the way toward reinventing itself and picking up the torch of the stoner rock genre once more. But the other half is repetitive and feels uninspired, painting an image of a band too content with leaning on past glories and taking their fans’ adoration for granted. “Il Mostro Atomico” has opened the door — now the band must enter the unknown and hopefully deliver another stoner rock classic.


Download: (I’ve Been) Hexed, Il Mostro Atomico
For the fans of: The Atomic Bitchwax, Kyuss, Nebula, Vista Chino
Listen: Facebook

Release date 09.02.2018
At the Dojo Records

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