Home Read Classic Album Review: Fu Manchu | California Crossing

Classic Album Review: Fu Manchu | California Crossing

The SoCal stoner-rock slackers hit the road & burn some primo rubber once again.


This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


In most of Canada in February, you can count on three things: It’s cold. It’s snowy. And no matter what any damn groundhog sees, you’re in for at least six more weeks of the same.

But take heart. I have the cure for that cabin fever. And no, I’m not talking about some overpriced Caribbean holiday, tanning-salon membership or full-spectrum sunlamp. No. This treatment is cheaper, easier and longer-lasting. Just buy Fu Manchu’s new CD California Crossing, put it in your stereo, crank up the volume, hit Play and close your eyes. Minutes later, you’ll be tooling down the Pacific Coast Highway in your boogie van or muscle car. You’ll be  heading to the beach to soak up some rays and catch a few waves. You’ll feel the warm sun on your neck. The ocean breeze in your hair. The smell of sweat, coconut oil and leather upholstery tickling your nose. And you’ll have a blond, bikini-clad beach bunny in the bucket beside you, singing along with the stereo and packing the bong. Could life be any sweeter?

Not in Fu Manchu’s world it couldn’t. For most of the past decade, these SoCal stoner-rock slackers have made a career — if not much of a living — out of imagining a world where the sun never sets, the summer never ends and the road never runs out. With California Crossing, their sixth full-length, they aren’t about to turn back now. On these 11 cuts, the boys remain happily stuck in the long-hair, boogie-rock ’70s.

Guitarist and singer Scott Hill’s vocals and lyrics still sound like he’s perpetually baked. The guitars are still fuzzed-out and chunky. The wah-wah pedals still work. The cowbells still clank. The tom-toms still thunder. The boogie still woogies. And their songs are still solidly built, power-chord anthems to girls, drugs and cars. Especially cars. Although they also write about dune buggies. And motorbikes. And vans, choppers, skateboards, you name it — if it rolls, Fu Manchu have probably written a song about hitting the road in it.

For California Crossing, they wrote a few more. And most are pretty damn sweet. Separate Kingdom, the album opener, sets the pace with pounding midtempo tom-toms, crunching guitars and mothership-connection lyrics that put the trip in drug trip. Hang On shifts up into second with its dashing tempo and neck-climbing riff. Mongoose veers off into the desert-rock grit of Kyuss, but the autobiographical title track cuts back onto the blacktop, puts the pedal to the metal and lays rubber with a turbo-charged low-riding riff and flamenco-dancer snare drum bashing. By the time you meet the Wiz Kid, the trip is only halfway over — and like the Kid says, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” The rest of the road trip continues apace, speeding by in blur of block chords, four-on-the-floor drumming and slacker-rock goofs like Squash That Fly, Ampn’ and Bultaco. The end of the road comes, fittingly enough, Downtown in Dogtown, which winds down into the idling instrumental The Wasteoid. “Best thing I’ve seen in years,” reflects Hill in the middle of Dogtown, pulling over to the curb to let you out. “And away we go out of here.”

OK, you can open your eyes again. Yeah, it’s still February. It’s cold. It’s snowy. And there’s plenty more where that came from. But who cares? Not you. Not anymore. Not when hot weather, hot chicks and hot rods are just a CD away. Just don’t bogart that coconut oil, dude.