Friday Full-Length: Fu Manchu, Daredevil

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Fu Manchu, Daredevil (1995)

What’s most incredible about listening to the earliest Fu Manchu albums, whether that’s 1995’s Daredevil or their preceding 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free (reissue review here), is just how vividly the band knew even at that point what they wanted to do. Granted, guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano had worked together in the prior outfit, Virulence, whose work Southern Lord reissued in 2010 as the collection, If this isn’t a Dream… 1985-1989 (review here), but even so, for all of Fu Manchu‘s reputation as a bunch of aloof, laid back surfer dudes who, I don’t know, just happened to plug in their guitars and help define fuzz rock?, the coherence and the consciousness at work in No One Rides for Free and Daredevil, the sheer songcraft in cuts like “Trapeze Freak,” “Gathering Speed,” “Sleestak,” “Egor” and “Push Button Magic,” the structure of the album — CD era linearity, to be sure, but still vinyl-ready at 11 tracks/43 minutes, and indeed reissued by the band on LP in 2015 via their At the Dojo imprint; it’s up on their Bandcamp page — and the performances themselves leave no doubt that Fu Manchu were aware of the sound they were seeking out. The groove that would so much come to fruition on subsequent outings like 1996’s In Search Of… (discussed here) and 1997’s The Action is Go (discussed here), the Eatin’ Dust 10″ in ’99 and 2000’s King of the Road, was already embedded in their sound, and in its toneand overarching flow, Daredevil shows that without question. It emits that SoCal sense of cool born of skate and surf culture that still resonates nearly a quarter-century later, and not just because kids are walking around in flannels and boots again (hilarious though that is), but because it taps into the timeless notion of American self-determinism; the will and ability to look at what the masses are doing and say, “nah, not for me.” As long as there’s been cool, that’s been it, and listening back to Daredevil now, thinking of it in its world-just-getting-over-grunge-and-wondering-what’s-next context, Fu Manchu were doing precisely that.

As the band continued to evolve into the immediately-identifiable processes it continues to carry out to this day — their latest album, Clone of the Universe (review here), is a winner — so too did the lineup change. Daredevil marked the departure of Abshire from the four-piece with HillRomano and lead guitarist Eddie Glass, and the arrival of bassist Brad Davis, who remains in the lineup. One might then think of it as a bridge between the debut and In Search Of… to come, but that does something of a disservice to the chorus of “Coyote Duster,” the fu manchu daredevilstart-stop riff and Glass‘ solo there, or the shimmy in second cut “Tilt,” which backs “Trapeze Freak” at the outset and, like that track, tosses the name of the record into the lyrics. Certainly at the time Daredevil came out, no one knew Fu Manchu would be back the next year with a genre landmark, and while Daredevil still has its formative elements in terms of their approach, to listen to the semi-spaced push of “Travel Agent” and its ultra-stoned nodder compatriot “Sleestak” and its consciousness-drifting answer in “Space Farm,” the roots of what they’d become are right there in the depth of distortion, the weight of their rhythm and their seemingly endless supply of hooks. “Lug” has some elements of the Southern Cali punk scene that birthed them, and “Egor” and “Wurkin'” back-to-back are solid mid-paced groovers that are no less memorable than anything before them while retaining their edge as more than just exercises in songwriting. Top it off with “Push Button Magic” as a late highlight, and Daredevil winds up as a completely underrated inclusion in the Fu Manchu catalog. It may be the that the Hill/Glass/Davis/Romano lineup were getting their feet under them in these songs, but there’s no question they absolutely did so at some point before they hit the studio to record. Seriously, who’s gonna fight with Glass‘ watery solo in “Space Farm?” Jerks, that’s who.

There’s no denying — and I mean none — what Fu Manchu would go on to create, and I’m not taking anything away from those records. And as Glass and Romano departed in order to re-team with Abshire in Nebula, and a fresh-off-Kyuss Brant Bjork took over on drums and Bob Balch came in on lead guitar, Fu Manchu‘s delivery only continued to smooth itself out to a point of unmatched fuzzy refinement. One could argue that 2001’s California Crossing and 2004’s Start the Machine (the latter their lone release on DRT Records, which at that point was also handling Clutch) took them too far into a commercial direction, but that’s mostly a quibble with production value, since Fu Manchu have always been and remain an immediately accessible listen. Even unto their Century Media years with 2007’s We Must Obey (discussed here) and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power (discussed here), which beefed up their fuzz considerably, they never had anything approaching pretense in their sound, and their latter-day work on 2014’s Gigantoid (review here) and the aforementioned Clone of the Universe, has found them reopening the conversation with their punk and hardcore roots with a rawer take while retaining an affinity for the heavier elements they helped make so essential in the first place. Classic band? Definitely.

And most importantly, the value of Daredevil extends beyond the academic to the songs themselves. 23 years after the fact, it’s still a gnarly listen, brimming with attitude and a quality of output that, yes, demonstrates clearly that Fu Manchu‘s vision of fuzzy heavy rock was not happenstance, but moreover, simply kicks ass. To my knowledge, they’ve never played it in its entirety live as they have The Action is GoIn Search Of… and (I believe) King of the Road, and I’m not sure they would, as it doesn’t have the same kind of profile as those records, but if any of these tracks made its way into a set, as “Push Button Magic” still does every now and then, I can only imagine feeling lucky to be there to see it.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

If you’re reading this, that at least means I made it to the end of the week enough to get it posted, so you’ll pardon me if I take a second to congratulate myself on that.

Before I get into anything else, I want to say thanks to everybody who listened to the first episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. Can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. If you get the chance, it’s re-airing two more times over the next couple days:

Saturday, Sept 29 at 11am ET / 8am PT
Monday, October 1 at 11am ET / 8am PT

If you get to check it out, it’s hugely appreciated.

I’ve already turned in a playlist for a second episode — yes, it starts with YOB — but have to learn how to use their voice-recording dealy before it actually gets to air. We’ll see how it goes. Either way, my plan is to bring on The Patient Mrs. for a guest spot following up on the first episode’s cameo.

And next week I’m also traveling to Norway for the Høstsabbat festival, so I might try to chase down dudes in Asteroid or Elephant Tree, etc., and see if they want to record a couple minutes to air at a later time. That would probably be episode three. Look at me, thinking ahead.

I leave for that on Thursday, get into Oslo on Friday. Fest starts Friday evening, runs through Saturday, starting in the afternoon, and then I fly back on Sunday. Quick, efficient, in and out. My flights have a layover in Copenhagen, but nothing long enough to actually leave the airport. Still, I’ve never been to Denmark. Now at least I can say I was in and out. That’s more than I’ve ever been able to do with Sweden, much to my ongoing shame.

But I’m looking forward to Høstsabbat and incredibly grateful for the chance to get back there. It’s going to be good.

The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I were in Connecticut last weekend, and it was good to get out of the house for a couple days and kind of reset the brain after having to put The Much-Missed Little Dog Dio down. At least not be somewhere where everything reminds me of her, which seems to be the case at home. It’s been rough. I know loss is universal, and everyone goes through it, and it always sucks, but some you feel more than you feel others. This one I’ll have with me for as long as I have anything.

What part of the week I didn’t spend writing or falling asleep against my will, I mostly spent taking care of the baby. Last semester, The Patient Mrs.’ schedule allowed her to come home between classes, feed him before she went back, and at least give me a couple minutes to get a post up or do something crazy like shower or go to the bathroom. The shifts (that is, mine) are longer now and her commitments outside of teaching classes are manifold. Lot of meetings, lot of favors done for colleagues. The Pecan is 11 months old as of earlier this week. He’s walking and babbling, climbing the furniture and getting into absolutely everything, but he’s also a lot, a lot, a lot of fun right now.

He’s had stretches where it’s been hard to take — those early teething stretches were not great — but (fingers always crossed) he’s sleeping through the night, which I know because I’m up for most of it and have the baby monitor on while I write, and he wants to play and read books and mash up blueberries and laugh and have a good time. Sure, we spent all day yesterday watching the Kavanaugh hearing, and that was probably the most screen-time he’s ever had, but even so, it’s a blast to chase him around the room, pick him up, give him his stuffed Porg to play with and so on. A lot of fun. Feels good. Money is super-tight — as in, The Patient Mrs. got paid last Friday and we were broke by the time I finished grocery shopping and buying gas this past Tuesday — but “daddy” is the best job I’ve ever had, hands down.

Emotions.

I’ve got a lot of stuff in the works for next week, including at some point a Wasted Theory video premiere that needs to get placed, but here’s where the notes are at right now ahead of the Norway trip:

Mon.: Megaton Leviathan interview and track premiere.
Tue.: The Exploding Eyes Orchestra album stream.
Wed.: Bourbon album stream.
Thu.: Probably Wasted Theory video premiere or otherwise Windhand review.
Fri.: King Buffalo interview… me.

A word about that last entry: Yes. Drummer Scott Donaldson from King Buffalo wanted to do an interview with me. He sent me questions and I answered them, and I’m going to post that on Friday. It was a fun, silly kind of thing, and it feels super-weird and self-glorifying in a way that makes me really, really uncomfortable, but it gives me another chance to talk about their new record, so whatever. I hate the thought of posting it like it’s some ego trip like who the fuck am I to think anyone gives a shit about anything I say other than “yo, riffs are cool,” but yeah. I’ve told myself I’m putting it up and in all likelihood, unless I can manage to talk myself out of it between now and then — as, rest assured, a big part of me is trying to do — it’ll be up sometime before the fest starts on Friday in Oslo.

Alright, that’s enough. It’s 5AM and time to put up the first of today’s six posts. Woof. Then maybe I’ll have some more coffee and read or go back upstairs and try to crash out for a bit until the baby gets up, which I expect he will within the hour. I was up a few times between when I first fell asleep at 9PM and 2:30AM when the alarm went off, so whether it’s during baby-nap or what, more sleep is probably going to happen today one way or another.

Have a great and safe weekend, and again, thank you for reading. Back Monday, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe: Don’t Panic

Posted in Reviews on February 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

fu manchu clone of the universe

Hey, look. If you’re Fu Manchu — and if you are, thanks for the riffs — having a guest appearance from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson on your new record isn’t going to hurt your cause. But make no mistake. With the SoCal fuzz innovators’ 12th full-length, Clone of the Universe — released through their own At the Dojo Records imprint — the case is much the same as with the rest of their discography: The highlight of the Fu Manchu album is the Fu Manchu album. I’m not decrying Lifeson‘s spot on the 18-minute “Il Mostro Atomico” that closes out Clone of the Universe. It’s a massive, multi-faceted, explorational space jam topped with killer solos set to a dead-on weighted nod; essential Fu Manchu fuzz setting off on a five-year mission. There’s one verse and it doesn’t start until after nine minutes in.

Cool as hell, right? Of course, but it’s the earlier songs — opener “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” “Nowhere Left to Hide” and “Clone of the Universe” itself — that really tell the story of the record. Side A. And side A finds the San Clemente foursome of guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, bassist Brad Davis, guitarist Bob Balch and drummer Scott Reeder in tight and top form as regards songwriting. Following suit from their last long-player, 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), the band continue to strip out some of the thickness from their fuzz as compares to records like 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power or 2007’s We Must Obey (discussed here), and it’s telling that even in working with Jim Monroe at The Racket Room in Santa Ana, CA, they also returned to Moab guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis — who helmed Gigantoid — at SUSSTUDIO in Simi Valley for additional recording.

That moves gives a sense of continuity of approach between the two albums, despite the four years separating their release, and context to the rawness of tone coming from Hill and Balch‘s guitars throughout Clone of the Universe, which very much plays out in two-sided fashion. The already-noted “Il Mostro Atomico” consumes all of side B in four distinct movements, and fair enough for that, but the earlier cuts running from about two to four minutes apiece make up a varied side A drawn together by the universal tightness in the band. They’re not through “Intelligent Worship” before Reeder‘s on his cowbell, and neither should they be. One could easily argue Fu Manchu know who they are as a band — after 12 records, they ought to, frankly — and are content to play to that in their general approach.

Fu manchu John Gilhooley

Which is to say, Fu Manchu sound like Fu ManchuHill‘s core vocal style won’t really change at this point, groove always remains central, and they blend Southern Cali laid-back-itude with heavy rock shred like the best in the business in part because they helped invent that “business” in the first place. And Clone of the Universe doesn’t fix what wasn’t broken coming off Gigantoid. Hooks abound in “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Slower than Light” and the title-track itself very much in a milieu that Fu Manchu fans will recognize as the band’s own. But on the other hand, there’s the raw drive of “Don’t Panic” — a 2:08 punker thrust with zero broach for nonsense that’s there and gone and still catchy that would be welcome to start any set I happen to be standing in front of — which, when paired with the easy-grooving start of “Slower than Light,” showcases the dynamic of tempo shifts that the band is working with across the still-quick span of the record as a whole, which even with 18 dedicated to “Il Mostro Atomico,” tops out at 38 minutes with seven songs.

Davis‘ bass signals a faster turn into the finishing movement of “Slower than Light” and with a semi-lurching rhythm, “Nowhere Left to Hide” delivers another memorable chorus in the ongoing series of them while also serving as the longest of the non-“Il Mostro Atomico” cuts at 4:27. Its vibe is foreboding but never really goes so far as to be a threat, despite the title, though the churning riff does bring to mind some unseen malevolent force. A later highlight guitar solo gives way back to the central riff that closes out and echo leads the way into the start-stop immediacy of the verse to “Clone of the Universe.”

No question why it’s the title-track; “Clone of the Universe” is quintessential, and it all the more represents the side of the album on which it appears for its ain’t-got-time-to-bleed lack of flourish and the push that emerges after the midpoint, only to slam into a wall of silence and then cut back to a slower version of the central riff to finish. From there, it’s off to “IlMostro Atomico,” which likewise wastes no time getting airborne and staying that way for the duration. There’s nod, there’s jangle, there’s tension building, and finally there’s angular space-o-prog that carries the band out, with a quick return to the first riff before a final fade.

Again, the Lifeson guest appearance is notable, and no doubt it was a thrill for Fu Manchu to bring him into the studio and get him on the record — mom always said there were two types of people in the world: Rush fans and the rest — but the focal point as one approaches Clone of the Universe shouldn’t be that singular moment or any other, rather what the record as a whole does with Fu Manchu‘s trademark sound and style, one part drawing it tighter than it’s ever been drawn before and the other pushing more broadly than it’s ever gone. Whichever side of the album happens to be on at any given point, Fu Manchu remain recognizable as who they are, and if anything, their will to add so much to that identity some 33 years after they got their start speaks to how special a band they really are. You can clone the whole universe, there’s still only going to be one Fu Manchu, and they’re in top form here.

Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (2018)

Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks

Fu Manchu on Instagram

Fu Manchu on Twitter

At the Dojo Records website

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Fu Manchu Announce Clone of the Universe out Feb. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Fu manchu John Gilhooley

Fu Manchu will issue their new album, Clone of the Universe, on Feb. 9, 2018, via their own At the Dojo Records imprint. An extensive round of US and European touring has already been announced to support the record.

You don’t need me to tell you the prospect of a new Fu long-player is an automatic for the most anticipated albums of 2018 list, but I’ll say that’s especially the case because of how excellent their preceding offering, 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), was in its sheer assault. It seems like they might be going for something a little different this time around — you don’t bring in Alex Lifeson from Rush for a guest spot if you’re playing beefed-up punk songs (or maybe you do?) — but whatever they’re up to, rest easy. It’s Fu Manchu. If “reliable” had a band moniker, it would be theirs.

Nothing to do now but sit back and wait for the fuzz to roll in. Get stoked.

Just in from the PR wire:

fu manchu clone of the universe

HARD-ROCK VETERANS FU MANCHU TO RELEASE 12TH ALBUM, ‘CLONE OF THE UNIVERSE,’ ON FEB 9TH

FEATURES GUEST APPEARANCE FROM ALEX LIFESON OF RUSH
2018 TOUR DATES ALSO ANNOUNCED

Southern Californian hard-rock legends FU MANCHU have announced plans to release their 12th studio album, Clone of the Universe, on February 9th, 2018 via their own label At The Dojo Records. The upcoming record will be their first in 4 years, following the 2014 release of Gigantoid. Additional details and pre-orders will be announced soon. Follow the band at https://www.facebook.com/FuManchuBand for additional updates.

In addition to the album news, FU MANCHU has also announced a world tour in support of the record. Dates are listed below.

Clone Of The Universe marks a new chapter for the “fuzz rock” pioneers as they mix the straight ahead blistering rock with unexpected time shifts, featuring tracks like the roaring cuts “Don’t Panic” and “(I’ve Been) Hexed” and the dynamically complex “Clone of the Universe” and “Slower Than Light.” The centerpiece of the album is “IL Mostro Atomico,” an 18 minute 8 second, side long epic featuring a special guest performance by Alex Lifeson, guitarist and songwriter of the legendary band RUSH. Heavier than anything they’ve ever done and broken into 4 distinct sections, it’s new ground for a band that’s been pushing the boundaries of “fuzz and wah” since its formation in 1990.

The band will be playing 2 album release shows in Southern California before hitting the road in Europe in March of 2018 and returning to the US in May of 2018. Additional 2018 shows will be announced in the coming months.

“We are excited to get out and play this stuff, especially “Il Mostro Atomico,” says founding guitarist, Scott Hill. “We think it’s some the strongest music we’ve ever done. We really love the overall sound of the album and having Alex (Lifeson) play on it is just incredible. It gives it that special validation for the idea that we had to try something like a side long song.”

The album was recorded and produced by FU MANCHU and Jim Monroe at The Racket Room in Santa Ana, CA with additional recording by Andrew Giacumakis at SUSSTUDIO in Simi Valley CA and will be released worldwide for streaming and on vinyl and CD on the band’s own AT THE DOJO RECORDS. FU MANCHU is Scott Hill (vocals, guitar) Bob Balch(Guitars), Brad Davis (Bass) and Scott Reeder (Drums and Percussion).

Track Listing:
Intelligent Worship (3:08)
(I’ve Been) Hexed (2:48)
Don’t Panic (2:05)
Slower Than Light (3:26)
Nowhere Left To Hide (4:19)
Clone Of The Universe (2:58)
IL Mostro Atomico (18:08)

FU MANCHU 2018 Tour Dates:
9.Feb – Los Angeles, CA – The Troubadour
10.Feb – San Diego, CA – The Casbah

2.March – Paris, France – Le Trabendo
3.March – Hengelo, Netherlands – Metropol
5.March – Berlin, Germany – Festsaal Kreuzberg
6.March – Copenhagen, Denmark – Pumpehuset
7.March – Oslo, Norway – Rockefeller
8.March – Stockholm, Sweden – Debaser Medis
10.March – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
11.March – Riga, Latvia – Meina Piekdiena
13.March – Warsaw, Poland – Poglos
14.March – Prague, Czech Republic – Klub 007
15.March – Vienna, Austria – Arena
16.March – Budapest, Hungary – A38
18.March – Zurich, Switzerland – Mascotte
19.March – Bern, Switzerland – Dachstock
20.March – Munich, Germany – Hansa 39
21.March – Wiesbaden, Germany – Schlachthof
23.March – Hamburg, Germany – Markhalle
24.March – Cologne, Germany – Bürgerhaus Stollwerck
25.March – Haarlem, Netherlands – Patronaat
26.March – Leuven, Belgium – Depot
27.March – London, England – 02 Academy Islington

1.May – Phoenix, Arizona – Rebel Lounge
3.May – Dallas, Texas – Curtain Club
4.May – Austin, Texas – Barracuda
5.May – Houston, Texas – White Oak
7.May – Atlanta, Georgia – Vinyl
8.May – Raleigh, North Carolina – Kings
9.May – Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
11.May – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Underground Arts
12.May – New York, New York – Bowery Ballroom
13.May – Boston, Massachusetts – Brighton Music Hall
15.May – Cleveland, Ohio – Grog Shop
16.May – Columbus, Ohio – Ace of Cups
17.May – Detroit, Michigan – El Club
19.May – Chicago, Illinois – Bottom Lounge
22.May – Denver, Colorado – Streets of London Pub

https://www.facebook.com/FuManchuBand
https://www.instagram.com/fumanchuband
https://twitter.com/fumanchuband
http://www.atthedojorecords.com/

Fu Manchu, “Future Transmitter”

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Fu Manchu Announce 25th Anniversary Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 24th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

fu manchu (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

You know Fu Manchu‘s 25th anniversary tour is gonna be hell on wheels, but that’s no big deal. Actually, wait, it is a big deal. It’s frickin’ awesome. The masters of fuzz will head out starting this June on a round of shows spanning months and countries, hitting the West Coast of the US before hightailing it to Europe in September and not looking back. This is the first leg of the tour, and they’ll be reissuing 1999’s hook-factory King of the Road on 2LP through their own At the Dojo Records imprint to mark the occasion, also playing the album front-to-back at a free show in Chicago as one of two sets.

Two sets! At a free show! That’s twice the Fu at no cost to you, the consumer. If this was an infomercial, you’d already be dialing.

The band posted the following on Thee Facebooks:

fu manchu 25th anniversary tour

FU MANCHU announce 1st leg of their 25th Anniversary 2015 / 2016 Tour

The band will be hitting the West Coast of the USA, Canada and 14 countries in Europe from mid June through the end of October. There will also be a special FREE Chicago show at The Double Door on July 11th.

The band will be touring without an opening act in most markets and playing a 2 set show of rarely played songs spanning their 11 Album career and an entire set of their album “King Of The Road” from start to finish for the first time. “King Of The Road” will be reissued as a double LP for the tour. More shows will be added soon. Tickets go on sale this friday.

june 13 Costa Mesa CA wayfarer
june 25 calgary, canada sled island festival- Dickens
june 26 calgary, canada sled Island club show- The Palamino
july 11 chicago, IL double door (free show)
july 15 san francisco, CA bottom of the hill
july 17 portland, OR hawthorne
july 18 seattle, WA neumos
july 19 vancouver, canada rickshaw
july 21 reno, NV jub jubs
july 22 san jose, CA the ritz (support by Dusted Angel)
aug 8 west hollywood, CA troubadour
aug 15 san diego, CA casbah

September
Sat 26 Nijmegen Doornroosje, Netherlands
Sun 27 Haarlem Patronaat, Netherlands
Mon 28 Hamburg Kunst, Germany
Wed 30 Copenhagen Beta, Denmark

October
Thurs 1 Malmo Babel, Sweden
Fri 2 Oslo John Dee, Norway
Sat 3 Stockholm Debaser Strand, Sweden
Mon 5 Helsinki Nosturi, Finland
Tues 6 Tallin Rock Cafe, Estonia
Thurs 8 Poznan Minoga, Poland
Fri 9 Berlin Astra, Germany
Sat 10 Erfurt HsD Gewerkschaftshaus, Germany
Mon 12 Budapest A38, Hungary
Wed 14 Vienna Szene, Austria
Thurs 15 Salzburg Rockhouse, Austria
Sat 17 Milan / Mezzago Bloom, Ilaly
Sun 18 Geneva Usine, Switzerland
Mon 19 Zurich Mascotte. Switzerland
Wed 21 Munich Strom, Germany
Thurs 22 Cologne Gebaude, Germany
Fri 23 Paris Le Marpquinerie., France
Sat 24 London Islington Academy, UK

https://www.facebook.com/FuManchuBand
http://www.fu-manchu.com/
https://twitter.com/fumanchuband
http://fumanchuband.bigcartel.com/

Fu Manchu, King of the Road (1999)

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Fu Manchu, Gigantoid: Eyes Wide on Arrival

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

It’s been a long five years since SoCal fuzz rock progenitors Fu Manchu released their last album. Like its 2007 predecessor, We Must Obey, 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power had a huge, encompassing sound, the trademark heft in Scott Hill and Bob Balch‘s guitars and Brad Davis‘ bass bolstered by production largesse that, while certainly not short on an appeal of its own, did little to convey the enduring affection for classic West Coast punk in Fu Manchu‘s approach. Released on their own At the Dojo Records and arriving preceded by the late-2013 Scion A/V single “Robotic Invasion,” Gigantoid readjusts the balance. The four-piece of Hill, Balch, Davis and drummer Scott Reeder recorded with Moab guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis, and like Moab‘s own debut, the result on Gigantoid boasts a natural but still vibrant feel, raw in comparison to what Fu Manchu have done their last few times out even going back to 2004’s Start the Machine and 2001’s California Crossing, but still definitely their own style. A campaign the last few years of marking album anniversaries for their earlier works — touring playing whole records like their 1996 and ’97 classics, In Search Of… and The Action is Go, and reissuing those along with demos for California Crossing and their 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free — has undeniably had an impact on the direction of Gigantoid‘s nine tracks, and in just under 35 vinyl-ready minutes, Fu Manchu hone a sound that’s not a cloying play at recapturing the magic of their first couple records, but which takes that feel and couples it with the now-decades-long development in their songwriting.

As their fans know, a lot of the Fu Manchu aesthetic isn’t up for debate. They’re not a band who want to reinvent themselves with each release, and as much as one can trace a gradual development over their full-lengths and put any number of narratives to it, the core of heavy, grooved-out fuzz (plus the occasional ’80s cover) remains steadfast in what they do. And as much as the production seems like a left turn outside the context of their exploration through past outings, that’s the case throughout the bulk of Gigantoid as well. The album opens with a four-song salvo of quintessential Fu Manchu-ery, blending sci-fi themes and ultra-nodding push as “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” confirm that Fu Manchu are still Fu Manchu at heart. After five years, it’s something of a relief to know, and with the memorable hooks in each of the first four cuts — the opener more grandiose, the second and third falling gleefully into their choruses and the last of them a rush that’s a highlight of Gigantoid as a whole — it seems their time away from the studio hasn’t been misspent. Following this initial wallop, the subsequent “Mutant” closes out side A with a bass-led start-stop groove to which Reeder soon adds his stomp before launching into its full volume, Hill‘s vocals in the verse not necessarily rushed, but matching urgency with the music behind. It’s not that “Mutant” doesn’t have a hook of its own or that it’s some radical departure, just that with some subtle effects work from Balch, the breaks to Davis‘ bass, and a shorter runtime, it’s an overall shift in vibe that acts as precursor to some of the other expansions in approach that side B brings, beginning with the all-out rager “No Warning.”

Read more »

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Fu Manchu Interview with Scott Hill: Evolution Machine Never Stops

Posted in Features on May 1st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Long-running SoCal fuzz rockers Fu Manchu have embarked on a cross-country US tour (dates here) to herald the arrival this week of their first new studio album in five years, Gigantoid. Of course, the San Clemente-based four-piece have hardly been idle since 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, acquiring much of their back catalog and reissuing and touring classic albums like 1997’s The Action is Go and 1996’s In Search Of through their own At the Dojo Records imprint over the last couple years, up to putting out vinyl of a collection of demos for 2001’s California Crossing and pressing their 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free (review here), in limited numbers earlier this year. They’ve never been still for too long, but it was definitely time for a new record.

And Gigantoid delivers in a big way what longtime fans crave from Fu Manchu. The zero-pretense fuzz from guitarists Scott Hill (also vocals) and Bob Balch is dead on and bassist Brad Davis and drummer Scott Reeder hold down fluid grooves whether it’s a punkish rush like “No Warning” or the steady roll of “The Last Question,” the extended sleepy jam that closes out. With production by Moab guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis (interview here), and partially inspired by their revisiting old material, Fu Manchu present a rawer sound than they have in some time, giving the material a natural feel that highlights the quality of songwriting in cuts like “Anxiety Reducer,” “Invaders on My Back” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” and just what it is about their patterns that makes these pieces so characteristic of the band’s work.

Fu Manchu are not an outfit prone to experimentation, but they’ve consistently grown their style from album to album, and Giacumakis makes a solid match for the production on Gigantoid in conveying the band’s ties to ’80s-era Californian punk and hardcore. Where Signs of Infinite Power and its 2007 predecessor, We Must Obey, seemed to be going for a larger, more encompassing feel, Gigantoid pushes back on that impulse toward largesse and shows a precision strike can have just as much impact on the listener. They are in their element throughout, and what’s more, they sound like they’re having a good time working on their own terms.

That’s the impression Hill gives in conversation as well, and while he hardly complains about working with Century Media the last couple times out, there’s a bit of relief in his voice when discussing being able to set his own timeline for a release and handle the practical ends of making an album available to the public, as much work as it is. They’ve gotten there now. Gigantoid is available and the band is just beginning its touring cycle — a whole different kind of work supporting the album. In the interview that follows, Hill discusses these processes as well as writing these songs, recording them with Giacumakis, handling their own release and their (tentative) plans for future tours and At the Dojo releases and reissues.

Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy:

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Fu Manchu Announce Tour Dates; Currently Mixing New Album Gigantoid

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

A Fu Manchu tour would be good news enough, but to have a list of dates come with word that the band’s new album, Gigantoid, is currently in the mixing stages is even better. Southern California’s Godfathers of Fuzz will embark on a spring run across the US at the start of May, making their way into Canada to hit Toronto and Montreal en route to the East Coast, presumably with some new material from Gigantoid in tow. Hopefully, anyway.

Gigantoid will also be the Fu‘s first new full-length through their own At the Dojo imprint. If the recent 20th anniversary vinyl reissue for their first album, No One Rides for Free (review here), is anything to go by, they should be more than up to the task of handling the next record themselves. Freedom of choice, right?

Here’s the latest:

FU MANCHU ANNOUNCE US TOUR DATES, FINISH UP NEW ALBUM

California rockers FU MANCHU announce their Spring USA INVASION Tour 2014

Fu Manchu are hitting the road in May 2014 to bring their new album “Gigantoid” to fans in the Unites States and Canada. Tickets go on sale Friday March Friday March 7th 2014 for all shows in the US and Canada. The band is currently mixing the album, their first new studio album in 5 years, with Andrew Giacumakis (MOAB). The album was recorded by Giacumakis and Jim Monroe(The Adolescents, X) at the end of February 2014.

The band recorded and released the single “Robotic Invasion” with Andrew Giacumakis last October for Scion Motors.

This is the bands 10th studio album, their 14th release over all and follows on two years of touring in the US, Europe Australia and New Zealand on successful reissues of the classic records ” In Search Of” and ” The Action Is Go.” This will be their first new full length release on their own AT THE DOJO label. The band celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2015 and this year marks the 20th Anniversary of their first album “No One Rides For Free” recently reissued on AT THE DOJO.

FU MANCHU INVASION USA TOUR/ SPRING 2014
Thursday May 1st San Francisco CA Bottom Of The Hill
Saturday May 03 Portland OR Dante’s
Sunday May 4th Seattle WA El Corazon
Tuesday May 06 Salt Lake City UT Club Sound
Wed May 07 Denver CO Marquis Theatre
Saturday May 10 Chicago Il SubTerranean
Sunday May 11 Detroit MI Smalls
Tuesday May 13th Columbus OH Ace Of Cups
Wednesday May 14th Cleveland OH Grog Shop
Friday May 16th Toronto ON Horseshoe Tavern
Saturday May 17th Montreal QC Cabaret Mile End
Monday May 19th New York City NY Mercury Lounge
Tuesday May 20th Boston MA The Sinclair
Wednesday May 21st Philidelphia PA Barbary
Friday May 23rd Washington DC Rock N Roll Hotel
Saturday May 24th Raleigh NC Kings
Sunday May 25th Atlanta GA The Earl
Tuesday May 27th Austin TX Red 7
Wednesday May 28th Dallas TX Gas Monkey Bar and Grill
Saturday May 31st Mesa AZ Pub Rock Live

Los Angeles / San Diego show info soon…
Europe tour info soon…
Australia / japan tour info soon…
Canadian tour info soon…

Fu Manchu, “Robotic Invasion” (2013)

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On Wax: Fu Manchu, No One Rides for Free

Posted in On Wax on February 18th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

“Gas, grass or ass. No one rides for free.” — ancient boogie van proverb

Here’s a fun idea: let’s talk about Fu Manchu. The long-running SoCal fuzz rock progenitors have a vinyl remaster of their 1994 debut LP, No One Rides for Free, out direct from the band on their own At the Dojo Records imprint, following reissues of In Search Of, The Action is Go, Godzilla’s/Eatin’ Dust, California Crossing Demos and a collection of their cover material aptly-titled The Covers. Even as they’re currently in the studio working on a follow-up to 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, however, they’re going back to their van-worshiping roots in repressing No One Rides for Free. The album arrives in gatefold form, quality card stock with photos of the four-piece from that era, pressed either to yellow (300), clear (300) or black (the rest) platter of substantive heft, and sounds even better than it looks, the eight tracks reading like a gnostic text of the heavy that would follow in their wake over these two decades since No One Rides for Free was first issued.

The lineup of guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, guitarist Eddie Glass, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano would be a supergroup if they got together today, with Hill having put out some of CA’s finest fuzz in Fu Manchu over the years while the others went on to form Nebula (whereabouts unknown), Romano now good company and good time in The Freeks — never mind Brant Bjork, who produced the thing — but make no mistake, on No One Rides for Free, there were no laurels to rest upon. Fu Manchu had put out a handful of singles between 1990 and 1994, but what’s widely considered their best work lay well ahead of them, and 20 years ago, the laid back, easy-flowing grooves of side A cuts like the opening one-two of “Time to Fly” and “Ojo Rojo” didn’t fit nearly as easily into assignations like “stoner” and “fuzz,” since they barely existed as a subgenre of rock. It’s easy to imagine No One Rides for Free finding an audience among the more baked-out contingent in Southern California’s seemingly perpetual punk and hardcore scene — that’s where Fu Manchu‘s roots lie, as the 2010 Southern Lord release of Virulence‘s If this isn’t a Dream… 1985-1989 (review here) showed, with Hill, Abshire and Romano in that lineup — but it’s not like it came prepackaged with a sticker that said, “Okay kids, this is stoner rock! Get on board!”

And for everyone who wound up doing that (i.e. getting on board), it’s no stretch to figure there were just as many who heard the acoustics and dreamy leads of “Summer Girls (Free and Easy)” — which here starts side B — and had no clue or context for what to make. If it was next-generation surf rock, however, Fu Manchu could easily fit that bill. No One Rides for Free sets in place an allegiance to that culture that continues to be a part of the band’s identity to this day, and a lot of what they’d later turn into the core of their sound is present in these tracks, let alone a lyrical affinity for good times, vans, Camaros, chrome pipes, ladies, and so on. Is it the record that launched a thousand Spicolis? More likely it’s a piece of that burnout puzzle than a sole actor, but Fu Manchu make it plain by the time Romano starts in with the cowbell of “Shine it On” that they know what they’re doing, and that the rolling grooves preceding are no mistake. Hill sounds like a kid on “Show and Shine” and “Mega Bumpers,” but that only adds to the fun of the reissue, and with the interplay of his and Glass‘ guitars in the jam of closer “Snakebellies” — which they still pull back to the main riff before they’re done — it’s easy to hear where a lot of players might’ve heard it and decided to try their hand at something similar. Like everybody.

It’s not a release that needs to justify its own release. Some reissues you wonder why they even exist. For Fu Manchu to be re-releasing their back catalog as they continue to work on new material wants nothing for rationale, and since they obviously have the rights to the material, all the better they’re the ones getting the chance to profit from putting it back out. Its production might sound dated here and there, but No One Rides for Free has a righteousness at its core that Fu Manchu‘s unyielding relevance and enduring influence shows to be timeless, and whether you’re a fan looking for an excuse to revisit their early output or a newcomer just getting to know them beyond preliminary investigations, this LP seems to serve all interests in a manner worthy of the band’s legacy. You can’t really lose.

Fu Manchu, No One Rides for Free (1994)

Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks

Fu Manchu’s website

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