Fu Manchu

California Crossing

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Anytime a band tinkers with its core sound, inevitably fans will be won and lost. California Crossing has a strong up side; Fu Manchu's distinctive fuzzy guitar sound has been refined into polished nuggets served fresh from the land of palm trees and endless summers. Its still hard rock, but this is a smoother machine that eases off the gas to feature breezing So-Cal hooks on "Thinkin' Out Loud," "Wiz Kid," "Mongoose," "Squash That Fly," and "Hang On." Wisely conjuring '70s pop sensibilities more closely resembling Cheap Trick than oft-compared Sabbath might realistically break Fu Manchu into radio markets and attract larger audiences without mosh-pits. However, there is a down side that may lose the interest of diehards still hell-bent on 1996's sludgy classic In Search Of or expecting King of the Road II. Scott Hill's reluctant vocals are usually nestled in amplified feedback and heavy drumming, but on this outing they are lifted to the surface exposing moments of range limitations with occasionally vague lyrics. Also, Brant Bjork's drums sound muted in the overall mix; only on "Ampn" and the juicy ending instrumental "The Wastoid" does he really gallop. Amicably leaving the Chu after this recording to pursue solo endeavors, Bjork was replaced by Scott Reeder (of Orange County's Smile) who's technical drumming suits CC's sound better. Lastly, Mammoth's delays and promotional copy proliferation several months prior to the official release hardly fueled precious momentum. Despite waves of bad timing for this album, these songs nevertheless strengthen Fu Manchu's status as a premier live band while showing future promise as musicians.

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