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Under Cover: Fu Manchu Taste Some of Devo’s ‘Freedom’

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The almighty riff is something to behold. It can make, or break, a great song. You’d think these mammoth riffs are always heaven sent to hell-bound hard-rock merchants like AC/DC or Black Sabbath, but the truth is, you can find a great riff in the least-expected places.

Devo, for instance, were kings of riffage. Just check out songs like ‘Mongoloid,’ ‘Come Back Jonee,’ ‘The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise’ and ‘Jocko Homo.’ Instantly catchy, dynamic and powerful riffs abound in the band’s songs. In 1999, Fu Manchu found the bridge that connects art rock to heavy rock.

On their sixth album, ‘Kings of the Road,’ California stoner-rock kings Fu Manchu raided the Akron misfits’ songbook and put their own distinct stamp on ‘Freedom of Choice,’ the title cut from Devo’s third album. Fu Manchu boil the song down to its bare-bones riff and in the process give it a steroid injection of sorts, turning it into some sort of union between Devo and Sabbath that actually works.

Fu Manchu singer and guitarist Scott Hill delivers the song in a laid-back Southern Californian drawl as the heaviness of everything around him pummels away. It’s a perfect marriage, and if you didn’t know the song was originally associated with New Wave music (gasp!), you’d think it was just another mighty Manchurian riff on display here.

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By 1980, Devo had already released two highly innovative and acclaimed albums, and were sneaking their way into mass consciousness. With the release of ‘Freedom of Choice,’ they’d become a household name and, for some, a way of life. The synths were bumped up in the mix, as were the catchy melodies, all loaded a little farther away from the group’s original jagged sound.

With the single ‘Whip It’ making its way up to No. 14 on the Billboard chart, the band finally broke into the mainstream. The album followed the same path, checking in at No. 22. Since then, the band’s influence can be heard across genres, even in the most unlikely of places. Like, who knew stoner rock could be so tasty?

Next Under Cover: The Clash Read Primal Scream Their Rights

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