Album Review: Fu Manchu, The Return of Tomorrow

Posted in Reviews on June 10th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

fu manchu the return of tomorrow

The lords of fuzz come back around with a new collection. Six years and one plague-interrupted three-EP 30th anniversary celebration later, San Clemente, California’s Fu Manchu offer what I count as their lucky 13th full-length, the 2LP The Return of Tomorrow, through their own At the Dojo Records. And while there’s been no lack of Fu-activity in the years since 2018’s Clone of the Universe (review here) — highlighted by the 18-minute “Il Mostro Atomico,” which featured a guest appearance from Alex Lifeson of Rush — the last year alone has seen solo- and other adjacent offerings from bassist Brad Davis (Gods of Sometimes), drummer Scott Reeder (Jacket Thief) and lead guitarist Bob Balch (Slower, Big Scenic Nowhere, Yawning Balch), with founding guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill as the only one not with a concurrent exploration, and fair enough as Hill‘s riffing has always been perceived as the central element to what Fu Manchu do. And as regards that core approach, The Return of Tomorrow is both loyal to the closely-guarded facets of the band’s structured, characteristic style, and willing to branch out a bit over the course of the included 13 songs and 50 minutes.

How Clone of the Universe ended with “Il Mostro Atomico” is relevant here in terms of The Return of Tomorrow‘s scope and how it’s presented as two shorter LPs combining to make the entire release, with the mullet-type construction of business-up-front-party-in-the-back, except with Fu Manchu, the business is the party. To explain, from “Dehumanize” through “Destroyin’ Light” — the first seven songs — the band are on an absolute tear. The material hits hard and is catchy in a way that fans will find familiar in pieces like “Roads of the Lowly,” “Hands of the Zodiac” and “Loch Ness Wrecking Machine,” etc., without really challenging the punk foundations of their sound or the clearly-ain’t-broken methodology of their songwriting. Hill delivers verses and choruses in recognizable patterns, and the band guide their listeners through a succession of stories about monsters (“Loch Ness Wrecking Machine”), psychic weirdos (“Hands of the Zodiac”) and the anxieties of the age and aging (“Dehumanize” and “(Time Is) Pulling You Under”) while kicking ass in classic Fu Manchu style, raw-ish in production in the spirit of the turn they made on 2014’s Gigantoid (review here) but wanting nothing for fullness of tone or emphatic groove.

It’s after “Destroyin’ Light” that an intended twist comes as “Lifetime Waiting” takes hold for the start of the second LP. Hill‘s stated purpose was to put the faster material first and then follow with a set of slower songs, each on its own platter, each like a short album unto itself. It doesn’t quite work out that way listening through — that is, it’s not so black and white between one and the other — as “Haze the Hides” digs in after “Hands of the Zodiac” or “The Return of Tomorrow” regrounds the proceedings following the Southern-rock-informed jammer “What I Need,” but one would hardly hold some display of dynamic against the band. It’s true the longest songs, “What I Need” (5:54) and “Solar Baptized” (6:00), both appear in the second half of the tracklisting, and while the penultimate “Liquify” bases itself around a funky start-stop riff, the lead flourish from Balch touches on psychedelia as it moves toward the end and the mellower instrumental vibing of “High Tide,” which closes in subdued, jammy fashion. So the listener can hear the one-to-the-other-type intention brought to bear in the songs themselves.

fu manchu

Mission accomplished? Yeah, at least mostly. Listening front-to-back, there is definitely a sense of expanding the reach as “Lifetime Waiting” gives over to “Solar Baptized,” but honestly, it’s all still Fu Manchu, and Fu Manchu wouldn’t be likely to put out a record at this point that wasn’t. That is to say, they know who they are and what they’re about, and while their songwriting has grown over the last three-plus decades and various productions have pushed them either toward largesse or a more stage-minded sound — The Return of Tomorrow leans toward the latter, which suits both the fast and slow material — taken as a whole, these songs aren’t trying to reinvent Fu Manchu 34 years later. You wouldn’t have asked Slayer not to be Slayer, or you wouldn’t tell Tony Iommi not to riff on a record.

To expect Fu Manchu to suddenly shift their entire approach when they’ve never shown any real interest in doing so would be ridiculous. Part of what makes The Return of Tomorrow work so well is the immediate familiarity of its hooks, with even the hard-hitting “Dehumanize” and “Haze the Hides” as a salve for tumultuous years, and the band can only be called correct to revel in that. Are they playing to audience? Maybe, but isn’t that also part of who they are as a band, writing a fresh batch of songs to take on the road for the next however long? Whether it’s two LPs or one, and even with the quirky construction — which is no less a showcase of the band’s persona than Hill‘s delivery of the title-line in “Loch Ness Wrecking Machine,” to be sure — The Return of Tomorrow celebrates Fu Manchu‘s context and their ability to make whatever they want to do fit with it. “High Tide” doesn’t conform to expectation in the same way as “Destroyin’ Light,” and “Solar Baptized” is downright expansive set next to “(Time Is) Pulling You Under,” which is a little over two minutes long and charged enough that the lines of the verse seem to interrupt each other on the way to Balch‘s next casually-shredded transitional solo.

The lesson here is probably that Fu Manchu can do whatever they want and make it work, even if part of that ambition is in maintaining the signature aspects of their broadly influential take on heavy rock and roll. At no point — even “Loch Ness Wrecking Machine” — do they slip into caricature, and their self-awareness becomes a strength as most of the material feels like it was made specifically for the stage and songs take different routes to get where they’re going. But it’s Fu Manchu, so yes, the songs are going, and the energy with which they do so is very much their own. Comforting even in its brashest moments, The Return of Tomorrow draws strength from self-awareness and dares some breadth around the central take reaffirmed by each chorus repeating in your head once it’s over. It wouldn’t be summertime without Fu Manchu.

Fu Manchu, “Hands of the Zodiac” visualizer

Fu Manchu on Facebook

Fu Manchu on Instagram

Fu Manchu on Bandcamp

Fu Manchu website

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Fu Manchu to Release 2LP The Return of Tomorrow June 14; Euro Tour Dates Announced; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 27th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

fu manchu

You couldn’t stop Fu Manchu if you wanted to, and for the life of me, why on earth would you try? The long-tenured fuzz heroes of San Clemente, California, have spent the last couple years embroiled in a celebration of their 30th anniversary that got derailed by a global pandemic but still resulted in three EPs coming out, reissuing past outings through their own At the Dojo Records imprint — they’ve got a snazzy and limited 2LP of 2004’s Go for It… Live! up for preorder now in addition to the new studio album that’s the impetus for this post — releasing the Live at Roadburn 2003 live LP and taking on not a small amount of touring.

All of this is in addition to guitarist Bob Balch branching out with multiple other projects — Big Scenic Nowhere, Yawning Balch, Slower, etc. — drummer Scott Reeder releasing his own solo debut under the moniker Jacket Thief and bassist Brad Davis collaborating with Andrew Giacumakis, formerly of Moab and a producer on Fu Manchu‘s last two albums, 2014’s Gigantoid (review here) and 2018’s Clone of the Universe (review here), as Gods of Sometimes, whose 2023 self-titled debut I sure hope gets a follow-up at some point or other.

Last week, the band put up a teaser video of a spinning test pressing, noted the approval of same, and began teasing the proverbial ‘big news.’ Today brings that news, of the next Fu Manchu album, a 2LP based around distinctions between faster and slower material (I love Slowmanchu), and as the outfit founded and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill unveil the first single “Hands of the Zodiac” from the new record, titled The Return of Tomorrow, which like Clone of the Universe was captured at The Racket Room by Jim Monroe, their punk-born immediacy, trademark groove and swing feel well intact.

You’ll also note two European tours being announced today, for summer and the coming autumn. They’d been previously confirmed for Keep it Low in Munich and Desertfest Belgium, so the tour isn’t necessarily a surprise, but while you’re getting your preorder together, it’s something else to keep in mind.

But first, the track, which is at the bottom of this post, along with the most recent Fu30 EP, basically for the hell of it. If you dig heavy rock and roll at all, from any point in history, and you’ve never gotten into Fu Manchu — that person exists — today is as good a day as any, and any day that brings new Fu is a good day. Album’s out June 14.


fu manchu the return of tomorrow

SoCal Rock Giants FU MANCHU Announce New Double Album, ‘The Return of Tomorrow,’ Coming June 14th

Album preorder:

Stream “Hands of the Zodiac”:

European tour info & tickets:

fu manchu tourGroundbreaking pioneers of SoCal desert rock FU MANCHU, have announced details of their forthcoming, 14th album, The Return of Tomorrow, which will be released on June 14th via the band’s label At The Dojo Records.

FU MANCHU’s follow up to the critically lauded Clone of the Universe (2018) and their first ever double album is a sonic journey through massively heavy riffage, otherworldly space jams and mellow rock anthems divided into two records.

A 4,000 unit limited edition double vinyl version of The Return of Tomorrow pressed at 45RPM and packaged in a glossy gatefold jacket with one “Space” colored LP and one “Sky” colored LP is available now for pre-order with an exclusive merch design here:

Commenting on the impending record, founding guitarist and vocalist Scott Hill says:

“When I listen to music, it’s either all heavy stuff with no mellow stuff mixed in or just softer stuff with no heavy stuff. I know a lot of bands like to mix it up and we have done that before, but I always tend to listen to all of one type of thing or the other. So, I figured we should do a double record with 7 heavy fuzzy songs on one record and the other record 6 mellow(er) songs fully realizing that maybe I’m the only person that likes to listen to stuff that way. We kept both the records to around 25-30 minutes each as to make it a full length release, but not have each record be too long. We don’t write a lot of mellow(er) stuff in Fu Manchu, but a lot of the riffs worked minus the fuzz. If you’re a vinyl person, both records are pressed at 45rpm to give it the best sound quality. If you’re a digital person, can make your own playlist and mix both the records together.”

Today, the band reveals the album’s artwork, track list and first single, “Hands of the Zodiac,” a heavy, fuzzed out jam replete with scorching guitar solos meant to be cranked at maximum volume.

Adding about the single, Hill sates:

“‘Hands Of The Zodiac’ is about an astrologer friend of mine who would always ask if we wanted to know anything about our future whenever we would hang out. He would look to the stars at night and ramble off all these weird predictions, none of which ever came true. He would say ‘zodiac hands’ and face the palm of his hand at you. I would always try to remember the things he said and almost every line in the song is something he said. For example, ‘Wheels / Motion / So Impressed,’ is based on how he talked about my writing songs / practicing / touring with the band ( ‘you got those wheels in motion)’ and Fu Manchu’s accomplishments (‘so impressed.’) I guess I should have given him a writing credit.”

1. Dehumanize
2. Loch Ness Wrecking Machine
3. Hands of the Zodiac
4. Haze the Hides
5. Roads of the Lowly
6. (Time Is) Pulling You Under
7. Destroyin’ Light
8. Lifetime Waiting
9. Solar Baaptized
10. What I Need
11. The Return of Tomorrow
12. Liquify
13. High Tide

Also announced today, FU MANCHU will embark on European tours in June and October, including performances at festivals Graspop Metal Meeting, Copenhell and Hellfest. All upcoming tour dates listed below. Tickets available at

FU MANCHU Tour Dates:
May 18 – Vancouver, BC – Modified Ghost 2024
June 15 – Tampere, FI – Tavara-asema
June 17 – Stockholm, SE – Slaktkyrkan
June 18 – Oslo, NO – Vulkan Arena
June 19 – Malmo, SE – Plan B
June 21 – Dessel, BE – Graspop Metal Meeting
June 22 – Copenhagen, DK – Copenhell
June 24 – Osnabruck, DE – Lagerhalle
June 25 – Cologne, DE – Stollwerck
June 26 – Frankfurt, DE – Batschkapp
June 28 – Clisson, FR – Hellfest (Valley Stage)
Oct 12 – Munich, DE – Keep It Low Festival @ Backstage
Oct 13 – Berlin, DE – Heavy Psych Sounds Fest @ Huxleys
Oct 15 – Vienna, AT – Arena
Oct 16 – Aarau, CH – KIFF
Oct 18 – Luxembourg City, LU – Atelier
Oct 19 – Antwerp, BE – Desertfest Belgium
Oct 21 – Manchester, UK – O2 Ritz
Oct 22 – Bristol, UK – Marble Factory
Oct 23 – London, UK – Electric Ballroom
Oct 25 – Masstricht, NL – Musiekgeiterj
Oct 26 – Hamburg, DE – Lazy Bones Festival @ Markthalle
Oct 27 – Dresden, DE – Heavy Psych Sounds Fest @ Chemiefabrik

Fu Manchu are:
Scott Hill – vocals guitar
Bob Balch – Lead guitar / backing vocals
Brad Davis – Bass – Backing vocals
Scott Reeder – Drums / Backing Vocals

Fu Manchu, “Hands of the Zodiac” visualizer

Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 3 EP (2023)

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