This is my first real serious encounter with this Southern Californian band, even though it’s their tenth album (first one released in ’94). Fu Manchu existed under this name since 1990, with vocalist and guitarist Scott Hill as only original member. Still the band line-up has been quite constant with guitarist Bob Balch and Bassist Brad Davis for the last ten years, only adding drummer Scott Reeder in 2002 replacing Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age).
Their sound is typical stoner-/desert rock, maybe with a little surf- or skaterpunk added, and yet they have a distinct sound that makes it recognizable from others in the genre. Real dirty, crunchy and raw guitar sound, early 70’s heavy slapping/flapping bass sound, and simple and heavy rock drums. And they’re playing really tight together – it’s obvious that they played together for a long time, getting that combined drive.
The production and sound is quite good and very live-like, the co-production being handled by Andrew Alekel, who also produced bands such as Weezer, Rancid and Queens Of The Stone Age, and the mastering by Gene Grimaldi (Velvet Revolver and Pennywise) bargains for expertise on those fields.
The album hammers away with a lot of energy on numbers like opener and title track “We Must Obey” (sounding a bit like older C.O.C.) and the very short “Between the Lines” (1:32), which is said to be (some of) the heaviest the band ever did. But the album is very diverse in pace, also containing steady rockers as for example “Knew It All Along” (nice riff) and “Shake It Loose”, “Sensei vs. Sensei” (which could be the under laying music for a Tarantino/Rodriguez movie), a cover of The Cars track “Moving In Stereo” with the explicit F.M. sound, and on the tracks where I think they’re best; when they lean back and go for the slower groovy feel like on “Lesson” (cool slide and solo) or “Hung Out To Dry”.
Don’t look for depths in the lyrics, or genius in composing or playing, just put it on, turn up the volume (in your FWD truck with the window rolled down or on your fast-trimmed skateboard), and head on down the road!
The guys are said to be an awesome live band, having toured with bands such as Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Marilyn Manson, C.O.C. and White Zombie, and judging from this release (which is the only one I know properly) I believe that could very well be right. Sure I’m going to check out their show when they’ll tour Europe in April, May and June (check the homepage or MySpace for dates).
To begin with I thought this was more or less noisy hammering away, done by more or less stoned old punk rockers, but it has grown on me with some more turns, and now I’ll say that if you’re into dirty and unpretentious rock, knowing the band or not, try checking this one out.Recommended tracks: “Hung out to Dry”, “Shake It Loose” and “Lesson”.