With over 30 years of playing their signature brand of stoner rock, FU MANCHU is back with their latest release Clone of the Universe (February 9, At The Dojo Records) This band consists of Scott Hill on guitar and vocals, Brad Davis on bass, Bob Balch on guitar and Scott Reeder on the skins. These guys are pros and I clearly see why they’ve lasted as long as they have. I came into this album not knowing much about FU MANCHU and I left with respect for the band and how tight they really are.
Digging into the songs I’m forced to address the elephant in the room right out of the gate. This album contains a track entitled “Il Mostro Atomico”, which clocks in an astounding 18 minutes and change. A crunchy and dirty jam that takes several twists and turns along the way, with vocals kicking in after the eight minute mark. FU MANCHU can play, and this song showcases this as well as any on the album. The song also features none other than Alex Lifeson from RUSH playing guitar, and it’s heavier than anything they’ve done prior.
It’s hard to get down on these guys for what is clearly a well crafted tune, but I’m not completely on board with it either. At the end of the day you’ll either appreciate the band’s creative decision to include such a long song, or you just won’t get into it. And after a couple listens I find myself in the latter category. While not a bad piece of music by any means, after I heard it a few times I had little desire to hear it again. It’s just a lot to digest; and may have been better broken up into three individual songs, which is essentially what it is. You could argue that this epic track wasn’t meant for me, and that’s ok. With that being said, half this album’s length is one song. A song that I didn’t love or hate, so I have to take that into consideration when reviewing it.
Now onto the positives. The rest of this material is easier to swallow, with some truly thunderous drumming by Reeder and tight bass by David. The dual guitar attack seals the deal over a rock solid rhythm section. Some of the guitar tone reminds me of THE MELVINS, which is a good thing indeed. Very beefy with a healthy dose of fuzz. Songs like “(I’ve Been) Hexed” kick ass, as do tracks like “Intelligent Worship”, and “Slower Than Light”. There’s some good material here, and there’s a couple songs I may revisit in the future.
This album is a hard one to rate when you really dig into it. If you’re already an established FU MANCHU fan then by all means grab a copy. If you are a casual fan like I am then your love for Clone of the Universe will hinge on one thing. Are you ok with half the album being one song? If you’re cool with that then by all means buy this record. It must be noted though that without the 18-minute jam you’re left with an EP’s worth of good songs. Add two points to my score if the long track doesn’t bother you.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Clone of the Universe”, “(I’ve Been) Hexed”, “Slower Than Light”