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Fu Manchu “We Must Obey” Review

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Much of the reason groups along the lines of Thin Lizzy have any relevance to me today is because of Fu Manchu. Coursing through the past twenty years with a number of lineup changes, the current members of the sun-streaked metal outfit have never ceased bleeding stoner rock and We Must Obey follows the same pattern to a tee. The post-Brant Bjork era of the group has had a few years to reflect on what will most likely be remembered as the worst recording in the band’s history, Start the Machine. The album ultimately captured little of the band’s ability, giving up its classic sound in exchange for courser, harder songs that held little substance as a whole. Within seconds of hearing the title track on the new album, which kicks things off, it becomes clear that the band too knows how poor its last release was, also knowing that if it were to continue that trend it would most likely end any momentum it still carried with its increasingly sparse fan base.

The song’s heavy introduction welcomes “Knew It All Along” which better executes what may have been the idea behind Start The Machine. Its doom-pop further glances into a harder sound than what fans can typically attribute to that of the group’s heyday, but it maintains control as to how deep, or heavy it gets. The chorus, if taken out of context of the album, is strong alone unto itself and leaches into one of the album’s best solos performed by guitarist Bob Balch. The album’s first two tracks show a distinct separation between Fu Manchu 1997 and Fu Manchu 2007, but almost to a fault the band shows no relent to play to its fans hearts with its brand of fuzzy skaterpunk that few have been able to match throughout the years.

The album’s first single “Hung Out to Dry” continues as classic Fu Manchu. It is slow, rhythmic and carries a beat that would awaken you from even the deepest of weed naps. That being said, it falls in line with the group’s historical repetitive fault, encouraging the listener to bore with the song with its excessively basic lyrics and hook. But thankfully, Fu Manchu doesn’t allow the entire album’s energy to fade with this track as the band varies its pace with the next few songs without exceeding its musical limits, a true indicator that the group fully realizes its mistake with its last album.

Just as the group did with Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” in 1996 and Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” in 1998 it does with The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” on We Must Obey. One of the most underrated aspects of Fu Manchu is its ability to recraft an already notable song by a group that holds a key distinction amongst its fans. At its musical low, the band still played its back catalogue masterfully and revived classics such as those mentioned here with a unique touch like no other. It’s alarming and refreshing to know that a band which had been condemned DOA after 2002’s California Crossing is far from it, and it’s good to have Fu Manchu back.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]