Hey ya’ll it’s time for another FU MANCHU album. As monumental and important as another Motorhead album or another Ramones album. That is to say: more of the same and very important, both at the same time.
This Fu offering features: fuzz boxes; short lead breaks; a tight rhythm section; and songs about aliens, bad asses and stuff you can’t control. That is to say: like every other Fu Manchu album. A big middle finger up to those who want something different form this band. Krautrock fans need not apply.
And like every other Fu Manchu record, it’s the sound of the rhythm guitar and its placement in the mix that defines Signs of Infinite Power. Just above the bass spectrum and way below the leads; overdriven and mixed so high that every other instrument is just waiting around the playground for the bully to show up and start the ass kicking. And Scott Hill kicks some serious ass, proving himself to be a riff-machine on the level of Iommi or Hetfield, if Greg Ginn had been sneaking out their respective mommy’s backdoors about 9 months before they were born.
But unlike the pre-Dio era Tony Baloney or Jimmy Hattfield ‘n McCoy, Scott Hill has a drummer who is not just along for the ride. Like Brant Bjork before him, Scott Reeder pounds the skins with AC/DC levels of restraint and perfection, and Hill plays along instead of the other way around, and that’s what makes this band fun to listen to. Even with Pro Tools, some bands still sound like they can actually play better than others, and Fu is one. Bassist Brad Davis and lead guitarist Bob Balch round out the sound. They’ve been in the band forever, and must like something about it, but it ain’t the extended solos they take. More likely it’s the sheer WEIGHT of the proceedings makes this a good band to be in, plus getting to wear OP tee shirts every night.
Lyrically as well, Signs of Infinite Power takes a “fuck you” approach. As in “we sing about cars, skateboarding and super natural sci fi stuff. Don’t like it? Ok, we’ll cut out the cars and skateboarding.” “Web Foot Witchhat”, “Signs of Infinite Power” and “Steel.Beast.Defeated.” all deal with mysterious beings that will take you out if they feel like it. Lyrically, the main difference with this album is that there is a hint in the songs about the frustrations of military life, and, to a lesser extent, working life (“Take It Away”). This makes sense since Orange County is home to Camp Pendleton, a Marine base in the sun and surf where daring young men go before being picked up and set down in the sun and fun of the Middle East. “Bionic Astronautics” (“First to go, last to know” . . . “Orders have come down”) and “Gargantuan March” (“This day you will remember / This day you should forget”, reminiscent of the St. Crispen’s day speech in “Henry V”: “But he'll remember, with advantages / What feats he did that day”) both remind us that there is still an actual WAR going on, and there isn’t a whole lot anybody can do about it. Signs of Infinite Power as a whole reiterates that whether it’s Big Foot, the Aliens, the drill sergeant or your boss -- shit is happenin’ that is bigger than you and me. But while the Fu disc spins, nothing is bigger than Scott Hill’s guitar, and contemplation of this infinite power may bring transcendence.
Epilogue: Also try to get your hands on the Fu 7” featuring a cover of JFA’s “Beach Blanket Bongout.” Prior covers of Devo, The Cars and Void show that this band has been to school. The tradition continues with a nod to a JFA masterwerk.