Fu Manchu releases their 12th studio album, Clone of the Universe.
Fuzz-rock originators latest release reminds modern stoners where it all began.
By James Cook
In the late 70s, skateboarding began to emerge from its Southern California home into the public eye. Not 20 years earlier, surf culture had infiltrated pop culture from the same beaches, serenaded by Dick Dale’s new style of quickened, Fender amp-blowing surf rock. As skate culture grew into the 80s, its own soundtrack began to play. Bands like Kyuss and Mondo Generator layed heavy fuzz tones over repeating blues riffs, meshing perfectly with checkered Vans and bombing California hills on four wheels. At the helm of this sound was Orange County, CA natives, Fu Manchu. Since their first release in 1990 (a single entitled “Kept Between Trees”), Fu Manchu has released 11 studio albums and a slew of singles, compilations, and live albums. Records like 1997’s The Action is Go, or 2000 King of the Road solidified Fu Manhcu’s up-tempo, fuzz-groove sound, continually setting the standard for any variation of the Stoner Rock genre. Almost 30 years later, on February 9th, 2018, Fu Manchu will be releasing their 12th full length album, Clone of the Universe, on At the Dojo Records, owned by members of Fu Manchu.
Fu Manchu is kicking off 2018 with the same old-style methods they’ve always used - put out a great album and tour it. They begin playing The Troubadour, in Los Angeles, CA, on February 9th. From there, Fu Manchu will take Clone of the Universe through Europe, back to the States, ending at Denver, CO’s Streets of London Pub, on May 22nd (already sold out). If anyone wasn’t sure, Fu Manchu hasn’t lost a step. This album is as rauckas as any they’ve made, yet also shows Fu stretching to other, doom and psychedelic corners of the fuzz-verse. Clone of… wastes no time with filler, as each track clocks in at a crisp 3 to 4 minutes. The album ends, however, with 18+ minute jam saga, featuring an appearance by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson.
Clone of the Universe’s opening track, “Intelligent Worship” comes out of the gate with a furious drum intro, holding down one of many massive guitar riffs. Fu Manchu has always been known for huge, wall-of-sound tones, but there’s a certain presence on Clone of the Universe that stands out to me. The guitars are hearty and aggressive, occasionally thrown through some sort of shifting, swirling effect. Fu Manchu creates an atmosphere that is muddy and huge, yet energetic and unobtrusive. As always, Scott Hill’s vocals are there throughout, adding rhythmic nuance and distinction to the waves of fuzz.
Fu Manchu’s career as a band has already been set. Their 2014 release, Gigantoid, was a solid release in its own light, which they brought to their fans live in accompanying tours, just the same. Clone of the Universe isn’t just another good album for the discography, it’s one of the better albums to come under the Stoner Rock umbrella. It’s early, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on some best-of lists for 2018 Their trademark barreling-down-the-highway double-time is definitely there, in songs like “Intelligent Worship” and title track, “Clone of the Universe”. Tracks like “Slower Than Light” and the closing “Il Monstro Atomico”, however, lie back in sub-60 bpm stoner grooves, touching on the dark and dissonant voices of the doom metal (Check the intro to “(I’ve Been) Hexed”).
With all the psychedelic, fuzz-inspired music coming out right now, it’s humbling to have Fu Manchu come out and put out an album of this caliber. There’s more I could say on Clone of the Universe, but really all I want to do is skate and listen to it again. Almost 30 years after their first release, Fu Manchu has kept alive the same spirit and intensity that earned them the title of fuzz-rock originators. They seem like they still thoroughly enjoy what they’re doing, a vibrancy that’s communicated on this new album. Whether you’ve been a fan since Fu Manchu albums were on tape or new to the Stoner style, Clone of the Universe is everything it can and should be. Of course, the magnitude of Fu Manchu can’t be understood until one’s legs are shaken by blaring guitar and bass speakers, so do what you can to see them live. All dates and information can be found at https://fu-manchu.com.