Fu Manchu
Fu Manchu If life is a highway, FU MANCHU is its soundtrack. Over the last dozen years, the Southern California quartet has perfected the art of the riff, mastered the depth of the groove and sharpened the edge of the hook -- and as their 10th album We Must Obey proves, the group's always-rockin' van still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Co-produced by Andrew Alekel (Weezer, Rancid, Queens of the Stone Age) and the band themselves, the record is infectious, inspiring and, most importantly, authentic -- the sound of a time- and road-tested group cruising along confidently yet effortlessly.

While FU MANCHU's music has been alternately described as stoner rock, surf-punk and desert rock, the truth is that it's all of the above. Rolling Stone probably said it best when it described the band as "a transcendent distillation of Seventies rock heaviness and Eighties punk aggression," going on to say that "FU MANCHU rock purely for the sheer joy of rocking." In other words, don't spend too much time digging for deeper meaning, for enlightenment awaits the very moment you press play, when founding guitarist Scott Hill's fuzzed-out guitar blasts from your speakers.

Although FU MANCHU's alumni include such decorated names as Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age), the group's lineup has been rock-solid since the addition of drummer Scott Reeder five years ago, while Hill has now been performing alongside guitarist Bob Balch and bassist Brad Davis for a full decade. Perhaps this stability is one reason why Hill calls We Must Obey "my favorite album we've done from start to finish."

That's high praise, considering that the group's back catalog includes such landmarks as In Search Of..., The Action Is Go, King Of The Road and California Crossing. Those albums helped FU MANCHU bolster their reputation as both the leaders of the fuzz-rock scene and the definitive Orange County hard rock band of the last decade, which they solidified on a near-nightly basis through tours with the likes of Clutch, Monster Magnet, Motorhead and Social Distortion, among many others.

Two years after Reeder joined the fold for the California Crossing tour -- the energy of which was captured on a celebrated double-live album, Go For It...Live! -- the group released 2004's Start The Machine. Supported by a nationwide tour with Corrosion of Conformity, the album was praised by All Music Guide as proof that "FU MANCHU have actually improved with age: They first stood out simply as one of the first groups to do what they do, and now deservingly stand out as one of the best at it."

After signing with Liquor and Poker/Century Media Records in 2006, the group entered Hollywood's Grandmaster Recorders studio (Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Black Crowes) with co-producer Alekel to record both We Must Obey and the Hung Out To Dry EP, a unique release in which a 7-inch record was packaged alongside a compact disc. Finishing touches were then added at Oasis Mastering by Gene Grimaldi (Velvet Revolver, Rev. Horton Heat, Pennywise).

In the spirit of such classic FU covers as Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" and Devo's "Freedom of Choice," the album sees the band tackle The Cars' "Moving In Stereo," a well-known track from that group's multi-platinum 1978 debut. Other standout moments include the uptempo infectiousness of "Knew It All Along," the anthemic battle cry "Let Me Out," the gigantic riff of "Hung Out To Dry" and the laid-back heaviness of "Lesson."

If you're craving a fix of unpretentious, classic hard rock in its most timeless form, look no further than FU MANCHU, whose music the L.A. Weekly once called "as purely Californian as anything (Beach Boy) Brian Wilson ever recorded." England's NME did one better, saying that "the secret of FU MANCHU's sick genius is that they're writing the soundtrack for the ultimate, never-ending, coast-to-coast, psychotic American rock n' roll road movie."

Words not only to heed, but obey.