Southern California stoner rock gods Fu Manchu are the musical equivalent of a van with an interplanetary dust-up painted on its side. Their Stooges-meet-Sabbath riffs are sick as shit, and the band is obviously hesh to death (as all skate rats know). But in recent years, it's become increasingly hard to ignore the band's interest in the psychedelic, sci-fi and the unknown (think 2014's Gigantoid and previous LP Signs of Infinite Power) and how it informs their sound.
Their latest album, Clone of the Universe, finds Fu Manchu continuing on their space odyssey, and for anyone who likes fuzz pedals and Neil deGrasse Tyson, it won't disappoint: the head-banging grooves are fully loaded ("Intelligent Worship," the title track) and Scott Hill's guitar work is as thick as five-year-old molasses. (The wordplay, as fans have come to expect, reads like a stack of bumper stickers found at a head shop in Huntington Beach.)
Best of all, just when you think they're reaching "been there, done that" territory, the band throws a curveball with "Il Mostro Atomico": an 18-minute, lurching, prog-infested sludgefest featuring Rush guitar great Alex Lifeson that sounds like Sleep doing the soundtrack to an episode of Battlestar Galactica. It's unreal, to say the least.
Due to the first half's measly runtime (half of its high octane songs clock in at under three minutes) and heavy as hell ending, listening to Clone of the Universe kind of feels like visiting a tapas bar with a few friends, only to drunkenly venture off at the end of the night to slam down a whole duck, solo (and no, that's not a euphemism): it's a journey most would avoid making, but a compelling one for those willing to roll the dice and ride. (New Damage)