(A joint Canadian-Welsh venture, this simulcast has been brought to you by Mr Ladano and I. We wanted to do something together and I wanted to revisit an early review of one of my very favourite LPs that wasn’t good enough either visually or writingally. Hopefully this will now allow both our nations to finally put the terrible events of the Canado-Walesian war of 1892 aside and learn to live, love and respect each other once again; they started it though!)
Cut yourself off from the pack
Flat out against the freaks
So here we go – 1537 reviews a rock LP with no adolescent baggage attached, I never had my heart-broken to the sound of this LP, I never listened to this LP over and over trying to pluck up the courage to ask her out, I never listened to this LP drunk on cider and hormones down on the beach, I never played air guitar to the entirety of this LP last Thursday night embarrassing my kids in the process. Hmmm, spot the lie. The LP in question? the totally amazing Fu Manchu King of The Road. Yowza! *
As always I bought this LP following a good review **, in the NME I think and thought if they’re praising a rock band it must be good; it was. The beauty of King Of the Road is all right there in the cover and the inner sleeve, it’s all about vans, the open road, vans, skating and driving and did I mention vans? Fu Manchu are near enough my fave band and have been since 2000. They just distil so much of what is great about 70s / 80s / 90s rock together in one groovy package, without sounding like anyone else at all. On this LP in particular they just hit great riff, after great riff, after great freaking riff; I mean just try to listen to the riffs on ‘No Dice’ or ‘Boogie Van’ without nodding your head and/or grinning. Now there are a goodly number of riffmongers roaming around out there in the rock undergrowth, but very few can write such great tunes around them too. Okay I’ll come down off the fence and admit it – I love this LP.
A big part of the appeal for me is that Fu Manchu are selling a great lifestyle here – vans, sun, skating, sand, vans, bonfires of driftwood on the beach, vans, girls dancing barefoot in the sand, vans and beards. A proper beach blanket bong out. Living in a rainy corner of the UK, this is damn enticing, despite the fact I burn easy. More to the point, King of The Road actually sounds like the lifestyle the band are advocating, groovy, cool, detached and throbbing; be aware I don’t use the ‘T’ word lightly!
I can genuinely say I love every single track here, but my favourites are the low-key opener ‘Hell on Wheels’, with its immortal chorus ‘Hell on Wheels / It’s no big deal’, the righteous accelerator anger of ‘King of The Road’ which I have driven the 1537-mobile terrifyingly fast to (‘King of the road says you drive too slow!’) and ‘No Dice’, where the riff is so large that I swear you can hear the song actually breathe out and step aside to accommodate it. The track ‘Weird Beard’, always a real highlight live, just oozes cool like you wouldn’t believe and their cover of Devo’s ‘Freedom Of Choice’ is just relentless*^.
King Of The Road is that rarity for me in that its one of the few LP’s I have encountered in later life that I have listened to so many times I’ve completely internalized it, I know every millisecond of it, when one song finishes my mind is already singing the riff to the next track. I used to know all my LPs that well as a kid but as listening time gets more limited by actually having to get up and go to work, this has rarely happened since.
The band? each and every member is fabulous here, the rhythm section of Brad Davis and Brant Bjork particularly so (is there a cooler man in rock than Brant Bjork? I want to be him!), the underrated Bob Balch on lead guitar and the 2nd coolest man in rock, Scott Hill on guitar and vocals. Scott Hill’s voice just fits each and every tune here so well. They even manage to cross over to that most impregnable rock demographic, Mrs 1537. It burns me sometimes that despite every right thinking dude and dudette who hears them likes them, Fu Manchu have never quite got the real recognition they deserved. Rest assured when I am rich and famous Fu Manchu will be the headlining act at the inaugural 1537-Fest.
I own a lot of Fu Manchu LPs and so I won’t flog it all to death here, I know some people out there prefer the older stuff like In Search Of… but King of the Road is my flavour perfectly. Don’t get me started on how great they are live, or what genuinely nice guys they are too – I’ll save that for later.
So in summary, don’t just take my entirely objective unbiased opinion for it, it has been scientifically proven^^ that if you don’t like this LP you have no soul, which means you can’t be my friend and that you probably are condemned to an eternity of being poked with pointy sticks by uncool demons listening to a never-ending loop of Backstreet Boys songs. Take heed, mortals and don’t say I never warned you.
The universal eyes tell me where to go
White line movin’ slow
Million miles an hour headfirst and alone
King of the road says you move too slow!
60 Down – Redux: The Director’s Cut Ultimate Version 2.0.
* Not too sure what a ‘Yowza!’ is, Axl Rose used to mention them at the end of songs and so did several other lesser, much lesser, glam rockers. Is it a small burrowing mammal, native to North America I wonder? or maybe just Los Angelesean for ‘Goodness me, that was really rather super’ ?
** Who are all these idiots writing about music? who cares what some idiot loser who has never been in a cool band or played a note, of, music, in, his, life, thinks, about, some, band …. oh, ummm.
*^Fu Manchu were always a great cover band, their semi-official 2014 Covers LP is an excellent listen.
^^Top flight Groovologists at MIT. Honest.