If the summer of ‘78 could be rebroadcast today through twin Marshall Stax with a single trace of irony, Fu-Manchu would share the stage with such good time stalwarts as Black Oak Arkansas, Thin Lizzy, and Montrose. Warm ‘n’ fuzzy, all burnt sienna and incense, the Manchu espouse some of the classic rock ‘n’ roll ethics: songs about rides, CBs, and drugs, all spouted out underneath a bed of groovin’ riffs that rise and fall down guitar scales like Tony Alva skating an empty pool in Palo Alto.
King of the Road is the band’s latest release, and with tracks called “Grasschopper,” “Weird Beard,” and “Hotdoggin’,” one can assume that they don’t concern themselves as much with prickly social issues as much as how much gas to the gallon and pounce to the ounce they can score. “Hell on Wheels” promptly sets the tone for the rest of the record, a fast, choppy number about, er, cars that contains a great double-time breakdown. Along comes the “Boogie Van,” and you can watch all the kids get down with the Sabbath-meets-ZZ Top-in-the-desert-heat vibe. Elsewhere, the title track rolls while the aforementioned “Weird Beard” just plain rocks. King of the Road closes with a rousing cover of Devo’s “Freedom of Choice,” appropriately fuzzed up to Fu Manchu standards.
The album’s artwork features some choice vehicle shots, including a majestic photo of some surfers enjoying a beach-blanket-bonfire while the sun sets and their boogie vans look on, which must look great in the double gatefold sleeve. Although the members of the band were probably under the age of ten when Matt Dillon’s Richie shot beer cans off a fencepost in the 1979 juvenile delinquent classic, Over the Edge, if Cher could turn back time, Fu Manchu would have been on the soundtrack.
// Notes from the Road
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