Orange County isn’t known for exporting cultural phenomena that DM readers love—or should love—but damned if stoner rock band Fu Manchu doesn’t belong on at the top of that short list.
Fu Manchu has been plugging away since the early 1990s, having churned out 11 memorable albums from 1994 onward. Their best album is probably 1997’s The Action Is Go—it clocked in at #26 on Metal Storm’s list of the “Top 100 Stoner Metal Albums”—but it’s the band’s 2000 release King of the Road that catches our interest today.
As Ned Raggett pointed out in his complimentary Allmusic review of the album, King of the Road may have seemed like just another stoner rock effort, but the album does cohere as an homage to van culture and the devil-may-care freedoms that are (by this time) practically synonymous with the advent of the automobile:
In as much as there’s a theme to King of the Road beyond the basics of driving, drugs, and that demon rock & roll, it’s driving—there’s a reason why the cover and internal art features a slew of great ‘70s-era photos from a massive van rally. The one shot of the fully leather-covered interior of one mobile love nest, complete with black curtains, about says it all. Then there’s the megachugging title track (“King of the road says you move too slow!”), “Hell on Wheels,” “Boogie Van,” and so forth—call it a concept album that doesn’t waste time with elves and yogis.
As the capper to the album, Fu Manchu reached back two decades for a particularly infectious anthem celebrating—if indeed it does—liberty American-style, to wit DEVO’s hit “Freedom of Choice,” which came off the Akron band’s terrific 1980 album of the same name.