The Californian masters of Stoner Rock have returned! “We Must Obey” is the tenth studio album from the chemically enhanced minds of FU MANCHU. In recent years, the FU have been getting a bit of flack for releasing a few lackluster albums (most notably, 2002’s “California Crossing”), and it seems the Stoner Rock genre on a whole has been suffering from stagnation. Is the band’s tenth album enough to revitalize the genre? No, but it’s a decent little piece of Rock.
From the opening frenzy of the title track, it becomes clear that this release is all about energy. Throughout the entire thirty-six minute span of the album, FU MANCHU barrel their way through one of their heaviest albums to date. Guitarist and founding member Scott Hill’s inimitable guitar tone (a sound as fuzzy as the band’s namesake) is the cornerstone of this new sonic onslaught, as he buzzes and wahs his way from song to song with the rest of the band right behind him. I mean, just look at what they did to THE CARS’ “Moving In Stereo”; FU MANCHU gave it an authentic Stoner makeover, following in the vein of their previous covers of DEVO’s “Freedom Of Choice” and BLUE ÖYSTER CULT’s “Godzilla”.
As for the rest of the songs, Hill delivers his usual Stoner edge with an accessible pop aesthetic. Just listen to the verses of songs like “Hung Out To Dry” and “Shake Me Loose”; these are cuts that belong in your Volkswagen’s CD player, no questions asked. Sure, it’s not incredibly deep stuff, but hey, it never has been and it never will be.
Still, “We Must Obey” has its fair share of low points, too. As usual, there isn’t a whole lot of variety between the songs, with a few sharing similar choruses. Some songs are real duds, too, such as “Land Of Giants” and “Let Me Out”. On these tracks, FU MANCHU’s less-is-more songwriting approach appears to be taken to the extreme, resulting in some oversimplified noise.
In case you’ve taken up residence under a boulder and have never heard of FU MANCHU, feel free to take a chance on “We Must Obey”. Naturally, it’s a far cry from the band’s stellar 1990s releases, but it’s still a decent disc overall. Longtime fans of the band, however, won’t find much in the way of a second coming for their beloved FU, at least not in terms of something that will resurrect Mammoth Records (the band’s former label which collapsed due to the overwhelmingly negative fan reaction to “California Crossing”). It’s a mixed bag in the sense that some songs purely rock while others falter. Take a chance if you feel you must, but know that it’s certainly not the band’s finest work.
(Online May 1, 2007)