Sound — 8
Fu Manchu's songs have been closely tied to the skateboarding and extreme sports community thanks to lyrics dealing with such topics, but it's the music this time around on We Must Obey that should provide the perfect soundtrack for anyone looking to get pumped up for aerials. The 11-track CD is at it's best when it allows little guitar hooks to pop up in random places, keeping what could have been your run-of-the-mill rock songs from being stale. And thanks to a nice variety of tempos used featured on We Must Obey, there is just a pretty effective flow to the songs. There's a very infectious quality to the guitars that are used by Bob Balch, with a few songs even featuring a descending scale that sounds a bit like Metallica's Seek And Destroy. Balch most specifically uses this element on Shake It Loose, and the hooks really balance out the song when it might get a bit redundant with repeating chord lines. The specific distortion used on Shake It Loose actually has a unique sonic, synthesized quality, an effect that is even heard most memorably on Knew It All Along. All in all, it's the twist on the guitar sound that drives these tracks. Land Of Giants stands out as one of the best tracks, with its slow tempo and grooving guitar line that makes intermittent appearances throughout the song. The song's position in the CD -- about midway through the songlist -- couldn't be more perfect in terms of offering up a new style to keeps things interesting. There's also a nicely restrained guitar solo that sounds to be using a wah pedal, which perfectly suits Land Of Giants. The band even finishes the CD off with the slower-paced Sensei Vs. Sensei, which has just as much of a finale feel as some faster rock tracks out there. Frontman Scott Hill never goes for full-on singing, instead going for the same spoken style of The Offspring's Dexter Holland. The style fits the band pretty well, but it's guitarist Balch that adds the much-needed contrast in songs when Hill's vocals tend to sound monotonous. This is not to say that there is not some charisma in Hill's vocals, but We Must Obey hits its peak when Balch releases hook after hook.
Lyrics — 7
While the band has dedicated plenty of songs in the past to activities like skateboarding, the latest CD is not so overt in its lyrics content. In fact, Fu Manchu has a collection of songs that really stray from what you might expect from the band. There are quite a few songs that are more or less your basic rock lyrics, and that's not a bad thing by any means. An example would be Between The Lines, a song that seems to be directed to someone who has hit hard times. Take your time, you're way too slow; Push them back, no self-control; All by yourself, you're changing your mind. A lot of songs are not overly specific as to the lyrical theme, but it's the music that you'll probably be most focused upon. In the song Sensei Vs. Sensei, the band opts for simplicity. There are few lyrics in this track, with actually only about 4 lines besides the repeating sensei vs. sensei line that is heard several times. While the lyrics on most of the songs don't really jump out at you, they also never get trite and include some clever ideas, as is the case with Sensei Vs. Sensei.
Overall Impression — 8
It's been said that Fu Manchu are best known for their energetic live show, but the latest CD does show there is more than to the band than just the performances. Thanks to guitarist Bob Balch, there are some memorable guitar hooks that you could easily have running through your head the rest of the day -- in a good way. Every once in a while the CD does get stuck on a certain chord pattern that keeps the song from going anywhere new, but Balch does tend to step in at the perfect time to keep things fresh. With the addition of some choice guitar effects, expanding lyrical topics, and Brad Davis' driving bass line, Fu Manchu's We Must Obey is an enjoyable listen, even if you're not of the extreme sports kind.