As long-time readers will know I’m just a complete sucker for Fu Manchu and that So-Cal stoner sound, like the note sequence in Close Encounters of The Third Kind did for those green illegal immigrants, it just resonates for me. I think, for me, it’s also the idea of living somewhere far less rainy where you can actually do cool outdoor stuff for more than 2 weeks of the year that sells the dream to me. Weighing in just before my beloved King of The Road LP, was an eight track 1999 limited edition compilation of two EP’s* Godzilla and Eatin’ Dust, called (drum roll), (Godzilla’s) Eatin’ Dust. For me this LP marks the stage where they moved from making very good, but a bit too fuzzy LPs such as In Search of … to the better produced and harder hitting likes of California Crossing, some early fans and band members disagree, but I think they were all the more potent for it.
Now I’m not a very objective reporter, with Fu Manchu more so than usual, since I desperately want to be both/either Brant Bjork and Scott Hill^ and hey, this may be one of those man-crushes I’ve read about, in which case – bring it on.
Fu Manchu have always been a really great covers band and I don’t mean to damn them with faint praise by saying that, their own recent compilation of covers, umm, The Covers shows this indubitably. Opening track here is ‘Godzilla’, a cover, of course, of the Blue Öyster Cult classic which (SACRILEGE SPOILER**) I prefer to the original; don’t hurt me! not the face, not the face!! I do though, I love the hefty bottom end and extra heaviness Fu Manchu give it, as well as Scott Hill’s trademark can-barely-be-arsed-to-breathe-it’s-all-too-much-effort drawl.
It’s a little known fact that Josh Homme added percussion and what-nots to the first three tracks here, to ‘Godzilla’ as well as ‘Module Overload’ and ‘Living Legend’. The latter two tracks give us seasoned Fu Folk everything we crave, just the right amount of fuzz tone and bass heft, propelled by some flawlessly groovy drumming. All bromance to one side, Brant Bjork grooves and swings better than any rock drummer I can think of off the top of my head, with the possible exception of early Frank Beard and Bill Ward, a trait he carries on to this day with the awesome Brant Bjork & The Operators and previously with Ché (<- an entry where I pretty much say most of what I have here, again).
‘Eatin Dust’ hits the accelerator, totally in keeping with the EP’s original cover – I don’t own a copy yet, but I may treat myself one day.
Next track, ‘Shift Kicker’ (can you spot what the band are into yet?) just slaps it up a notch again in terms of volume and speed, albeit at the expense of some tuneynessosity (copyright 1537), let’s not forget that Fu Manchu’s original incarnation was as a hardcore punk band called Virulence and this punk edge keeps them a notch ahead of their peers most of the time. Beneath that mild-mannered stoner exterior, lurks a punk-enabled killer beast type thing that would rip your throat out, if it could really be bothered.
So laid back is Scott Hill on ‘Orbiter’ that he can’t even be bothered to sing the intro and so we get (be still my heart) a borderline-spoken bit – yes!! This track is a real precursor to later triumphs like ‘Hotdoggin’ on King of The Road. There is a criticism that Fu Manchu can be a bit lazy and wrote more grooves than songs, but just as you fear that will be the case here they crank it up again in the middle of the track and things get spiky. ‘Mongoose’, is pretty much one of my favourite Fu tunes, but I have to say I prefer the more polished version they put out on California Crossing, this version is a bit more unruly; my team of dedicated researchers tell me it was used on a 2008 Superbowl half-time advert for Toyota – is that a big deal American friends? I guess it is.
In time-honoured fashion the band end this LP on the worst track here, ‘Pigeon Toe’ – not that it’s terrible or anything and it is pretty much the heaviest thing I’ve heard them play, but we’re driving fast through El Discord Desert here, having left Tune City, NM far behind us and the lights are fading fast in the rear-view.
So there you have it, this is a good, solid entry in the Fu Manchu discography, or Roll of Infinite Greatness as I prefer to call it and, as always, great driving music. I like the cover a lot too, the close-ups of the Panasonic amp on the front and ‘phones on the back. For all you guitar fetishists out there, there is also a close-up of a well-weathered Fender Jaguar on the inside. The late lamented Man’s Ruin records always did have good, high quality sleeves.
….. The mongoose flies on by ….
*sighs, in the way that old farts do, remember them? yup, it all used to be fields around here …
**although I will freely confess I only own BÖC’s debut LP and a few stray digital tracks, I know I have more work to do there. I will try harder.
^I know, I know only hours ago I said I wanted to be either Bret or Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords and that would be nice, but given a straight choice I’d opt for Brant Bjork any day.