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Fu Manchu 

Start the Machine (DRT Entertainment)

Some years ago, Fu Manchu covered Blue Öyster Cult's "Godzilla" and in so doing mapped the boundaries of its aesthetic. Every Fu Manchu song is like that '70s anthem -- a sludgy throb driven by fuzzed-out guitar riffs and thudding drums. On their seventh full-length studio effort, absolutely nothing has changed. Every song on Start the Machine is a foot-stompin' rifforama, with just enough punk energy to keep things from sinking into Grand Funk cover-band territory. Even the token slow number, "Out to Sea," while a highlight, sounds more of the same.

This is not to suggest that the record is a bad one. If it had come out two months earlier, it would have been a nearly ideal soundtrack to timeless summer pursuits -- cruising, skating, doing beer bongs at the beach.

But are seven albums with no discernible stylistic change too many? Maybe. And the members of Fu Manchu may realize that. Only a dawning self-awareness can explain calling two (decent) new songs "It's All the Same" and "Tunnel Vision."

More by Phil Freeman

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