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."