Fu Manchu
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No One Rides, 5/10
Daredevil, 5/10
In Search Of, 6/10
The Action Is Go , 5/10
Eating Dust , 6/10
King Of The Road , 5/10
Ch'e: Sounds Of Liberation , 5/10
California Crossing , 4.5/10
Brant Bjork: The Operators , 4/10
Start The Machine (2004), 4/10
We Must Obey (2007) , 5/10
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(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Fu Manchu is a Los Angeles band led by vocalist Scott Hill and, initially, guitarist Eddie Glass. THey debuted in 1990 (their first single was Kept Between Trees) but it took them albums No One Rides (Bong Load Custom, 1994) with Superbird and Ojo Rojo, and Daredevil (Bong Load Custom, 1995) with Tilt, Trapeze Freak and Push Button Magic, to fine-tune their style, a super-heavy sound in the tradition of Blue Cheer, Stooges and Black Sabbath, or, more recently, Melvins and Kyuss.

By the time In Search Of (Mammoth, 1996) reached the shelves, the band had progressed to more than mere hard-rock revival. If Regal Begal was still a Blue Cheer tribute, songs like Asphalt Risin and Neptune's COnvoy used their models to create a new grammar of "stoner rock", often employing mind-expanding riffs and sonic effects that resurrect Jimi Hendrix

While Eddie Glass was forming Nebula, Fu Manchu released their fourth album, The Action Is Go (Mammoth, 1997), a better produced work but a work that is derivative even of their own albums. The band now boasted the "classic" line-up with Bob Balch on guitar and Brant Bjork (former Kyuss) on drums.
Fu Manchu truly excels at the heaviest riffs (Anodizer, Strolling Astronomer) when Blue Cheer materializes not only in name but also in sound. But the band can't easily keep up the adrenaline and has to borrow cliches from Blue Oyster Cult (Evil Eye, basically a copy of Regal Begal), Stooges (The Action is Go), Led Zeppelin (Guardrail), Jimi Hendrix (Laserbl'ast!), Rolling Stones (Urethone), etc. The dilated blues Burning Road shows, at least, good band synergy.
Fu Manchu's worst excesses triumph in the lengthy, both psychedelic and Black-Sabbathian Saturn III. This 14-song album is 13 songs too long.

The mini-album Eatin' Dust (Man's Ruin, 1999) fares much better: Eatin' Dust, Module OVerload, Mangoose and Pigeon Toe rank among their most effective (and succint) bursts of violence.

However, Fu Manchu's new album, King Of The Road (Mammoth, 2000), displays the same problems of Action is Go. The band just doesn't have the skills and the inspiration to last that many songs. Hell On Wheels has the propulsion of the classics, Blue Tile Fever builds an intriguing atmosphere, but then the band gets lost in a labyrinth of quotations.

In the meantime, Brant Bjork's Ch'e project is to stoner-rock what minimalism is to electronic music. No wonder Sounds Of Liberation (Man's Ruin, 2000) ends up sounding like early ZZ Top and Aerosmith rehearsing in a garage. Streamlining and smoothing out the classic Fu Manchu sound, California Crossing (Mammoth, 2002) delivers the most accessible batch of songs of Fu Manchu's career. Clearly, the band is more interested in melody (Separate Kingdom, Mongoose) than in "stoning" out (Wiz Kid, The Wasteoid, the loudest and darkest tracks). Even the hard-rocking tracks (Hang On, Thinkin' Out Loud) are, at best, a late harvest of mellow grunge. The one burner on the album is California Crossing, an epyleptic boogie with dramatic guitar and drum work that would have ruled in the 1970s (Downtown In Dogtown comes close too). All in all, this is the best crafted of Fu Manchu albums. It is also their most commercial effort and the least "stoner".

Brant Bjork's second solo, The Operators (Music Cartel, 2002), which he played all by himself, is a lo-fi pop album disguised as a stoner album.

Fu Manchu's Go For It (Steamhammer, 2003) is a live album. Start The Machine (DRT, 2004) sounds like the album of cheap imitators of Fu Manchu.

We Must Obey (Century Media, 2007) does not pretend to be innovative. Fu Manchu stick to what they do best: imitate their idols from the 1970s. They are basically a cover band in disguise, and probably the best at this game.

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