When someone stole Scott Hill's favorite fuzz pedal during a show in Boston, Fu Manchu knew change was coming. The band's trademark sound -- nod-your-head riffs played on guitars soupy with thick fuzz -- was in jeopardy. Little did the thieving knucklehead know he was altering the course of Fu Manchu for the better. Hill and Bob Balch, who together form the band's wall of guitars, bought some new amps and refined Fu Manchu's sound. The result is California Crossing, their follow-up to 2000's King of the Road. Though the disc continues to boast plenty of hooky grooves, this time around they're leaner sounding and tighter, and the riffs are, well, decipherable.
"We had pretty much done all we could in the fuzzy guitar area anyway," says Balch. "[California Crossing] is pretty much everything we wanted to do." And what they want to do is bring all the sun, sand, and surf of their Southern California stomping grounds into your living space.
"We all live right on the beach," says Balch. That's pretty obvious. As he talks, he peppers everything with "Right on." But if Balch's diction is simple, so are the pleasures that his band revolves around. King of the Road is an extended homage to GTOs, custom vans, big-block engines, and burning rubber. Of course, it's possible the band has developed a newfound ambition. California Crossing does have a song about UFOs.
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