We Must Obey
posted on 2/2007 By:
Ready for an abstruse analogy between two bands? Okay, here we go:
Fu Manchu are to stoner rock as Morbid Angel is to death metal.
Kind of a stretch, maybe, but I think it holds up. Both bands are from sunny states. Both keep company with the progenitors of their respective styles; both have legions of imitators. Like Morbid Angel, Fu Manchu released a sequence of classic albums at the beginning of their career. Both bands have also begun to slide ominously towards mediocrity as their careers have aged, and both are releasing highly anticipated albums this year that conclude longish periods of silence. Though I doubt either band would acknowledge the other as a direct peer, the situation seems to invite competition. With We Must Obey, the burnouts from California have gotten off to quite a start.
It’s hardly a surprising start, though. Fu Manchu can do their thing very well, and they know better than to deviate too broadly from their groovin’ ways. The difference between Fu Manchu albums boils down to performance and production quality as much as it does to songwriting, and We Must Obey is a perfect example. For the first time in years, this band sounds like their stash has been dosed with something a little stiffer than the herb. Skinsman Scott Reeder (no, not the Kyuss guy) supplies the band with a steady diet of dramatic scattershot fills and bruising grooves in a truly energized performance, and band leader Scott Hill hollers like a punk as often as he croons like a rocker. A sublimely warm, grimy production from Andrew Alekel (Queens of the Stone Age, Weezer) and the band members themselves makes We Must Obey an ear massage for stoner rock fans, further enhancing the fine individual performances. Fortunately, the songs are pretty damn good too. Sometimes tumbling and noisy (“We Must Obey,” “Let Me Out,” “Between the Lines”) and more often laden with rollicking groove, this batch of tracks is everything stoner rock should be. Scott Hill’s capacity to craft instantaneously head-nodding riffs and charismatic solos (check out the classic rock heroism of “Lesson”) seems to have come out of its short hibernation, and it’s damn good to see it back. There’s even a semi-goofy cover of The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo.” Odd choice, but the band successfully converts it into a kind of ass-shaking funk rock with Black Sabbath’s rhythm section kind of deal.
So Fu Manchu haven’t really progressed in any meaningful way on We Must Obey…does anyone care? This might well be their best album to date, if not their most influential, by din of sheer craft. It’s great to hear that something finally lit a fire under Fu Manchu’s asses…you’re on deck, Mr. Azagthoth.
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