Bang! Like a stunt car through a pile of boxes, Clone Of The Universe, Fu Manchu’s 12th album, hits your ears with opening track 'Intelligent Worship' going off at 100 miles an hour.
And the pace doesn’t let up until halfway through this all-too-short new album. There’s everything you’d expect from the band's years of accumulated experience contained within the 7 tracks – fuzz and wah-wah, stops, starts, drum rolls, raging guitar solos and, of course, references to racing your hot rod down a Californian highway, whether in an illegal drag race or otherwise. However, the biggest and best surprise is saved for the end. 'Il Mostro Atomico' features a guest performance from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson and is an epic 18 minute behemoth, a complete contrast to the short, sharp, punchy numbers before. The Nuclear Monster (rough translation) weaves in and out, speeds up and slows down several times yet even at 18 minutes it’s not long enough by half!
After numerous plays Clone Of The Universe struck me as more of a mini album/EP (remember them?) and a bit of a let down considering the band have been away for 4 years. Despite that epic final track and all the boxes being generally ticked by the other six songs, nothing on here comes close to earlier albums King Of The Road, California Crossing and The Action Is Go. Yet Scott Hill (lead singer/guitarist) suggests it’s their best work to date. I'm of the opinion that their earlier offerings gave a lot more of depth across all tracks but then I suppose they have to still keep themselves interested as well as the fans.
Having said that seeing Fu Manchu perform this album live might be a different bag of piston rods but I was underwhelmed, content but underwhelmed. And with only one date in the UK I’ll not get to test my theory.
Clone Of The Universe is available from At The Dojo here.