For some curious reason, every time a Fu Manchu song played in the radio, i always painted the picture of hot chicks and aliens smoking weed in a bar in Jupiter. Now, just a few months away before Hillary uncovers all the extraterrestrial secrets on earth, it only seems fair that I revise the Fu’s last album that’s calmly riding the lines between hard rock, punk and stoner/doom like the waves of the ocean. Gigantoid went unfairly unnoticed, in what proved to be not the best, but their most metallic album of their career.
The Fu Manchu style sounds like throwing AC/DC riffs into the mud, while Blue Cheer is putting them on fire with whiskey, just a moment before Black Sabbath put the flames away by urinating. On Gigantoid, the veterans play their most raw and primitive act for nearly a decade. The production is natural and vibrant at the same time, as the band has found an ideal balance between retro and dynamic, updating their sound while preserving their sonic trademark. The songs never lose their edge, clearly illustrating the element of rawness that sets Fu Manchu apart from all the other mellow vintage rock bands. This is fuzzy hard rock venturing into metal landscape, never ashamed of its punk/hardcore origins, yet calling upon all the great stuff stoner metal has to offer. Where surf meets aliens, you will find Fu Manchu, last of their kind.
Gigantoid isn’t so gigantic as it introduces itself, as it runs around 35 minutes, while half of the songs are under the 4 minute mark. Anyone that has enjoyed a Fu Manchu album in the past knows these Californian dudes don’t want to reinvent rock: Simple riff-chorus-solo structure, check. Sabbath-y riffs, you got it. Lyrics in search of space… and some more! Only this time, the band take a step back from their more polished last offerings and delve deep into the fuzziness of their first albums. The four-piece decided to utilize their heavier, darker side, capturing sheer energy in shorter, punchier songs like “Mutant”. Just over 2 minutes, the last song of side A is breathing its bass-y heaviness upon us like a mammoth after 1 month diet. Its ranting, hypnotic rhythm although too short to work the spell in full effect, is long enough to sweep you off your feet, unleashing a quick sinister groove that takes no prisoners. Mind you, i am making history here, mentioning Fu Manchu and “take no prisoners” line in the same sentence.
“Evolution Machine” goes even further at the doomy side of life, the band crunching a riff that would make Cathedral proud, while paving the way for a rock-drop-dead solo - the extra spice in the darkest gem of this short beast of an album. A playful bass line drives this 5 minute juggernaut, which evolves into a maniacal scream that stands out a bit out of the usual bands’ aesthetic. Be warned, this is not your usual light headed Fu’s here. Unfortunately, the epic 8 minute “The Last Question” drags aimlessly after a while, a small scale jam that never quite delivers what the simple yet effective starting riff promised. At least it transcends us to the “The Action is Go” peak era, lacking of course the marijuana blurred aura of the band’s masterpiece. Well, it’s no secret that the guys roll better with shorter songs.
This is a good and entertaining record, but the universal law of music says that there is a fine line between a good album and “a record to swear by”. Gigantoid doesn’t fall in the latter category. For all its sincerity and hard work, the cool tracks that will rock the clubs or the Mustangs in Pasadena, are clearly missing. At the same time, the huge track that will drive mad the sectarian stoner fan is also to be found. Fu Manchu did not hit big with this one, though I am more than sure that this was not their intention. Worry not friends of good music, as this special “it” is the only thing this record is missing. And remember… if you ever find yourself to a bar in Jupiter, I’ll be sitting right there with a hot chick and an alien by each side, listening to “Anxiety Reducer”, for all that is worth.