Fu Manchu — Clone Of The Universe
Originally formed in 1985, Fu Manchu only caught my attention after ex-Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork joined their ranks in 1996. Even then, I was a little late to the party, having discovered all of the post-Kyuss projects half-a-decade after the group disbanded, but none of this had any bearing on the quality of what I heard. The band had a very prolific run from 1994 up to 2001, culminating in my favourite of the group's albums, King Of The Road. Since then, my interest has waned, as did the band's output, and suddenly it's 2018 and they've got a new record out. I'd all but forgotten about Fu Manchu until I stumbled across a review of Clone Of The Universe, which jogged my memory — I used to quite like these guys — and prompted me to give this new album a listen.
Immediately, with the opening track "Intelligent Worship," I feel like I'm picking up right where I left off. Fu Manchu have always had a distinctive sound, despite inhabiting the fairly homogenous genre of stoner rock. The chilled-out vocals and heavily fuzzed-up guitars take me right back to my summers in the early aughts, the peak of my immersion in the genre; given how much my life has changed in the intervening years, the consistency of this band is quite appreciated. The band can still write great riffs, and Clone Of The Universe features a number of really concise tracks, many of which run less-than 3 minutes. It's only on the second half of the record that the songs get a bit longer, finally culminating in an 18-minute-long jam in "Il Mostro Atomico."
Until I hit the lengthy closing track, I thought Clone Of The Universe might've been an EP that was mislabelled, but that's not the case. The material doesn't waste any time, packing each track with solid riffs and groovy rhythms. There's nothing unexpected here, for anyone familiar with stoner rock or Fu Manchu, but everything is up to the group's usual quality standards. In contrast to the rest of the material, "Nowhere Left To Hide" feels a touch too long, while everything else is quick and to-the-point. I was initially skeptical of the closing track, but it's very well executed and doesn't beat any passages into the ground — it ended the album perfectly in my estimation.
As usual, the production and song writing are on point. Fu Manchu have been honing their craft for almost as long as I've been alive, and show no sign of slowing down. While Clone Of The Universe doesn't break any new ground whatsoever, it's another strong inclusion in the band's discography. Thick bass, fuzzed-out guitars, and thundering drums in the right hands — as is the case here — are still very viable ingredients with which to craft a quality modern rock album. It's also refreshing, as I ebb closer to turning 35, to see that as much as things change, some good things still remain the same. Mainstream rock is practically nonexistent but the underground scene seems as energised as ever. This record is absolutely worth a listen; at just under 36 minutes in length Fu Manchu aren't asking for much of your time and the rewards are well worth the expenditure.
While the pace of Fu Manchu's recorded output has slowed in the last decade, the group show no signs of losing their knack for writing quality stoner rock. Clone Of The Universe has the band in top form, knocking out 6 very concise cuts and ending things off with an epic 18-minute jam. For a band as tenured as Fu Manchu this is the perfect length for an album at this stage in their career; rather than shoveling out a bunch of filler, we've got just the right dose of new material and not a moment more. Rock fans, and lapsed proponents of the stoner rock genre — such as myself these days — would do well to give this album their attention.
Release date: February 9th, 2018
Record label: At The Dojo Records
Scott Hill — guitar, vocals
Bob Dalch — guitar
Brad Davis — bass, vocals
Scott Reeder — drums, vocals
- Intelligent Worship
- (I've been) Hexed
- Don't Panic
- Slower Than Light
- Nowhere Left To Hide
- Clone Of The Universe
- Il Mostro Atomico
Published: August 11th, 2018.