POP: THE FUTURE IS ORANGE

Just south of Los Angeles, Orange County is a land of beautiful surf beaches, and it's also one of the most staunchly Republican areas in the US. Unfortunately for the rich and unradical, the beaches also attract an alternative culture of surfers, skaters and bands and over the years there have been some flashpoints: in the Reagan era, police actually designated some punk bands as gangs and followed that up with some heavy-handed tactics.

The 1990s have seen an outbreak of punkish bands. The county's small dive bars, like the Lava Room and Club Mesa, were the starting blocks for the likes of Offspring, Pennywise and Rage Against The Machine, all playing rock, Orange County style, ie LOUD. Another name to add to that list is Fu Manchu, who differ from their contemporaries in that not only do they happily fit into the heavy metal genre, but they are also not afraid of displaying their love for the Seventies. Fu Manchu offer up in-your-face fuzzed-up guitars and a stoner groove that slams, bangs, grunts and swaggers in a way that celebrates the glory days of metal. But there's no posturing here - they just get on and do the job as loudly as they can.

The Fu Manchu quartet were weaned on the sounds of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Iggy Pop and Blue Cheer, as well as 1980s hardcore punk rock. Vocalist and guitarist Scott Hill insists that "we're not totally Seventies obsessives. We just grew up in that era, listening to that music and liking the artwork and sitting around watching movies like weird science-fiction ones or drug movies like Cheech & Chong. That kinda comes through in our music."

Over the phone, Hill sounded as if he'd just dragged himself out of his Orange County bed, and declared that while the area probably is as Reaganite as it's portrayed, "we don't really notice. Naw, I don't really notice at all." A quick chat soon reveals why the Fu Manchu guys don't notice much. Sitting around watching movies does tend to be the main pastime. Films have even provided the band's name and the title of their latest ear-bludgeoning album - The Action Is Go - is from an old dirt-bike movie.

"I used to ride motocross when I was younger," drawls Hill after what sounds like some heavy inhalation over the line, "but now we sit around a bit more." However, they also get in some surfing from time to time: "Yeah, it's a kinda healthy element in our lives. Not really that healthy, just kinda, ha ha." It's for the stage that they save their energy, with Hill's parting words being, "Expect a big heavy show, I guess. We'll try and see what equipment we can get - yeah the loudest that we can."

Fu Manchu: Barfly Club at the Falcon (0171-485 3834) 23 Feb; The Garage (0171-607 1818) 28 Mar

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