Fu Manchu California Crossing

If you've been with Fu Manchu since the Bong Load years, you'll have witnessed their sonic evolution. Always on a quest for the heaviest riff, their first few albums rocked the same formulas with the same tempos and, unfortunately, it was just too much of a good thing. When they moved to Mammoth, especially with the addition of Brant Bjork (ex-Kyuss) and Bob Balch, and the release of The Action Is Go, they took a huge step forward. They started to mix up the dynamics a bit, which gave songs much needed depth and variety. The last major limitation was Scott Hill's somewhat tuneless shouted vocals (à la Iggy and the Stooges). Enter producer Matt Hyde (Slayer, Porno For Pyros, Monster Magnet's Power Trip and God Says No) who, along with introducing more melodic vocal elements (choruses and backing vocals), has done the same thing for Fu Manchu that he did for Monster Magnet, and that is to surgically extract the psychedelic fuzz. California Crossing marks a major shift away from the fuzz and towards cleaner guitar sounds. Even Brant Bjork's drum sound is disappointingly tight, robbing it of its pounding hugeness (one of the Fu's biggest strengths). With California Crossing, they seem to be really playing up the SoCal angle and further embracing their punk roots (they've previously covered acts like SSD) with guest vocals by Keith Morris (from the Circle Jerks) on "Bultaco." Of course, punk and SoCal go together with the whole surfer/skater bit, and the song "Downtown In Dogtown" refers to the Santa Monica turf that was home to the godfathers of modern Skateboarding, the Z-Boys. The most famous of whom, Tony Alva, was also on the cover of The Action Is Go . Yes, it's a little bit cleaner, and yes it tastes a little less like stoner rock, but it is still rock, and it still rocks. And it's still Fu Manchu. (Mammoth)