Fu Manchu - _We Must Obey_
(Liquor and Poker Music, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (
Well, it's 2007, and as we check in on the irrepressible stoner contingent Fu Manchu, we find them up to exactly -no- new tricks. Bread and butter '70s rock licks are still being mainlined unapologetically straight into the amp stacks with a minimum of extra-sonic effects flair. Aside from a little dabbling in swamp-steel guitar on "Sensei vs. Sensei", there is very little deviance from their tried and true reliance on chugging, upbeat anthems and semi-camp lyrics.I'm sure the guys are probably tired of being saddled with the whole stoner-cum-classic-rock tag, but that's partly their own fault; there is a certain fun loving lack of any real malevolence or dark undercurrent to their sound that smacks of old bands like Grand Funk or Ted Nugent much more so than Black Sabbath or even Led Zeppelin, for that matter. Even Blue Oyster Cult -- whom the band famously covered on their rather obvious but nonetheless infectious rendition of "Godzilla" -- were more prone to art school dabbling and progressive leanings, whereas Fu Manchu seems to have no purpose on this earth but to kick out the jams... relentlessly.This ethos probably hurts them somewhat from a critical perspective. Few bands get away with essentially churning out album after album of one-note guitar rock (even AC/DC has taken the better part of a decade off recently), but it's easy to belie the fact that the mighty Fu have consistently penned some really great mix tape fodder over the years.Sure, nearly all of their albums are comprised of a handful of classics book ended by charming yet rudderless filler; _We Must Obey_ is no exception to the rule, but the classics are truly exceptional and even the filler this time around is not entirely free of nutritional value. In fact, "Knew It All Along" is probably the best song the band have written since "Evil Eye"; no, fuck that, it's -better- than "Evil Eye". In fact, if Queens of the Stone Age had included it on their monster _Songs for the Deaf_ album, it would have been a standout even in that context.Elsewhere, "Between the Lines" is brief but features some great, overdriven upper register guitar riffing. A cover of The Cars' timeless "Moving in Stereo" sounds absolutely piss stupid on paper, but actually turns out to be a pretty brilliant idea (even though it sounds little like the original, I still can't take it in without getting lost in visions of Phoebe Cates climbing out of the pool in that red bikini)._We Must Obey_ is programmed well, with a pretty good cognizance of which songs are the standouts and which ones merely sound good when sandwiched between the real killers. Hence we have the familiar sounding "Let Me Out" trailing the aforementioned "Knew It All Along" and the almost equally anthemic "Hung Out to Dry". Similarly, on the back end of the disc, "Moving in Stereo" and "Sensei vs. Sensei" buoy up the (also decent if overly familiar) likes of "Lesson" and "Didn't Even Try". Ultimately, this is not album rock, instead harkening back to that era when even hard rock bands were still primarily structured around the power of the 7" single... which is really the antithesis of your average drawn out, jam-heavy stoner rock song these days.
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