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

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We carefully 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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Fu Manchu Reissue No One Rides for Free on Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

After running a contest to give away the test-pressing on their Thee Facebooks page (I didn’t win), Southern California fuzz innovators Fu Manchu have made available a limited run of vinyl for a new remaster of their 1994 debut album, No One Rides for Free. Obviously this is a scenario in which all of humanity benefits.

That’s not sarcasm. Yeah, No One Rides for Free doesn’t enjoy the same kind of landmark status as some of Fu Manchu‘s subsequent outings, like 1997’s The Action is Go or 1996’s In Search Of, but it’s amazing how much of Fu Manchu‘s approach was already laid out by the time they got to No One Rides for Free after a couple of initial singles. Cuts like “Mega-Bumpers” and “Time to Fly” and “Ojo Rojo” lay out the blueprint for what the band would become, and with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, bassist Mark Abshire, guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano — the latter three who’d go on to form Nebula — not to mention production by Brant Bjork, who’d later join on drums, the badassery speaks for itself. It’s like they recorded surfing.

Instructions for how to order follow here, and Fu Manchu are also playing Feb. 8 at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa, CA, with Blasting Concept, so one imagines you can pick up a copy at that show as well. From there, the Fu head into the studio to lay down a new album reportedly for release later in the year. Like I said, everybody wins:

Fu Manchu 20 year anniversary of “no one rides for free” remaster / reissue gatefold LP out now. 300 on yellow vinyl and 300 on clear vinyl the rest on black vinyl. We will be selling the colored copies here. CD’s out soon.

Inside the USA $13.00 plus $7.00 shipping fedex priority. email your order.

Outside the USA contact us for shipping.

Paypal and contact is kingfu666@aol.com

Orders will start shipping out 3rd week of feb. Include order and address with payment.


Fu Manchu, No One Rides for Free (1994)

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