Southern California's Fu Manchu are back with their twelfth album of steadily driving fuzz: Clone of the Universe. The band makes great use of short, speedy, and sludgy songs for the first six of the seven tracks here. The hypnotic and mostly instrumental closing track "Il Mostro Atomico" clocks in at 18+ minutes and features Rush's Alex Lifeson on guitar, but we'll get to all of that later.

Overall, the record doesn't sway too far, if at all, from the material of their past. They helped popularize the fast fuzz-wah sound heard on Clone of the Universe back in the early 1990's and haven't let up since. The songs have all the catchiness and riff work of classic Fu records The Action is Go and King of the Road. Since we have basically an EP-length on the A side of the record, and an 18 minute space rock journey on the other, the freshness is sure to last.

Going through the album track-by-track like a typical album review doesn't seem to make sense in this instance. It would be like writing a track-by-track analysis of a Ramones album. Basically, you have six tracks that feature a monster rhythm section, tons of well produced fuzz on the guitars, blistering and bendy wah-solos, and the leaning-against-a-van coolness of Scott Hill's laid back vocal delivery. The songs weave together pretty seamlessly, like most of their material, with plenty of speed keeping the record upbeat. Many of their contemporaries keep it in the slow lane, driving me on a one-way trip to boredom town. The aforementioned 18-minute spacey rock epic that closes the album makes great use of the b-side. It does not fall into boring jam-based territory, but builds riff by riff and employs phaser and flanger effects here and there.

Fu Manchu aren't reinventing the wheel with this album, and I don't think they'll ever make a record that wanders too far from their previous releases. That being said, the songs on here will keep the attention of even the most jaded of former stoner rock fans out there.