Compared to the decades-long legacies of Queens Of The Stone Age and Clutch, Fu Manchu feel like something of stoner-rock underdogs. Their thirty-plus years haven’t heralded the success or status of others in the same vein, even with Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork’s stint in the late ‘90s. As such, they’ve become part of the furniture with regards to hard rock in the ’90s and 2000s.
‘Clone Of The Universe’ is essentially everything you’d expect from a Fu Manchu album at this point, ticking all the stoner-rock boxes with relative ease. The only real surprise coming in the closer ‘Il Mostro Atomico’, a titanic, 18-minute-long beast featuring a guest turn from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson to really push the four-part opus into overdrive. And yet, if you’re going into ‘Clone Of The Universe’ expecting winding opuses in the same vein, prepare to be disappointed, as this is a surprisingly lean and potent album, if lacking in some real gutsy innovation at times.
It’s a factor of the stoner-rock sound not being the most malleable that holds this album back from real greatness. Mostly in a reliance of fuzzed-out hard rock tones on a songs such as ’(I’ve Been) Hexed’ that just feel rehashed from any number of tracks. But the weed-scented creep of ‘Slower Than Light’ and ‘Nowhere To Hide’ gives a heavier, more oppressive atmosphere, and ‘Intelligent Worship’ has a surprisingly poppy core that lends it some real punch. It mightn’t be anything new, but ‘Clone Of The Universe’ going for a back-to-basics approach does make for an entertaining listen.
Of course, there’s nothing really mind-blowing here discounting that gigantic closer, but even so, Fu Manchu keep to the fundamentals without making them boring or too played out. How long it’ll last is a different matter, especially with a relative lack of defining features, but it’s worth a spin. If only to see how an oft-neglected ’90s relic still has plenty of gas in the tank.
‘Clone Of The Universe’ by Fu Manchu is out now on At The Dojo Records.
Fu Manchu links: Website|Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp
Words by Luke Nuttall(@nuttall_luke)