Musikmeldungen aktuellMusikstromKolumnenSoundcheckPopalphabet GastbeiträgeWeblinksKontaktinfo
Mission of Burma  

ONoffON (Matador OLE 613-2V)

Twenty-two years, gone just like that?
     It’s been twenty-two years since VS., Mission of Burma’s last—and only—studio LP. Really that long? ONoffON, unlike most rock or punk reunion records, makes it difficult to believe that so much time has passed.
     Mission of Burma, for those who need the back story, were an anomalous, basically post-punk quartet (guitar-bass-drums power trio plus tape manipulation guy Martin Swope) from Boston. They were still moving towards their peak as a group when guitarist and vocalist Roger Miller’s tinnitus—the guy’s ears wouldn’t stop ringing—caused them to throw in the towel in 1982. I’m told that the majority of people who know about Mission of Burma today do so because of REM’s and Moby’s covers of their songs. I specify that I’ve been told this, because among my cohort of friends from that period, Mission of Burma were . . . well, words don’t always suffice. They were the bomb, even if no one used that expression for at least another decade. Theirs were the songs that my friends quoted in their high school or college yearbooks. I find the Moby version of “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” so profoundly bland as to be amazed that he had the nerve to release it. I’m just hoping that Burma retained their publishing rights.
     Mission of Burma—along with Minor Threat and Hüsker Dü--was our roots music. It was only much later that I learned to like country, bluegrass, and blues. When I was the subject of an “Invisible Jukebox” test several years ago, the one piece that I recognized instantly—in that infinitesimal fraction of an electric-guitar second—was Mission of Burma’s “This Is Not a Photograph.” If I live to be one hundred, and don’t fall prey to extreme tinnitus, I’m guessing that I’d still recognize it just as quickly.
     The alchemy of Mission of Burma’s sound remains almost as mysterious as before. I’m ideologically opposed to expressions such as “the perfect guitar sound,” but then how do you describe Roger Miller? (One of the tragedies surrounding Burma’s demise was that Miller shelved his Stratocaster for a number of years.) His guitar sound is a full-throated roar, perhaps the closest that an electric guitar gets to a human voice in terms of richness and complexity. He’s a damn good singer, too, as is bassist Clint Conley. Conley’s songs benefit from the fact that when he’s singing, Miller finds the most counterintuitive moments to bellow like a madman. Apropos of madmen, drummer Peter Prescott brings group’s the Dionysian thump and stagger, but always within the context of crystalline pop and rock songs. ONoffON thankfully includes a handful of Prescott songs (pick hit: “The Enthusiast,” with the sing-it-y’all chorus “I’m as high as a kite on a windless night”) that recall the very best moments of his earlier (but still post-Burma) group The Volcano Suns.
     ONoffON is said to be structured like the group’s recent live shows. This seems plausible, given that it stacks the best, most instantly memorable songs at the outset of the record. The first half is uniformly strong. “The Setup” and “Hunt Again” are pop sublimities. “Wounded World” makes you wonder how it’s possible that such an elegant group can also rock as hard as The Stooges. The material becomes significantly weaker in the final third of the record, feeling like a rock band stretching out onstage. “Fever Moon” is the record’s one real clunker—menacing druid rock boogie that includes such unfortunate lyrics as “Sentimental Visigoth / Crazy as a loon.”
     Stop the track. Start again. This time, louder.


Musikmeldungen aktuell | Musikstrom | Kolumnen | Soundcheck | Popalphabet | Gastbeiträge | Weblinks | Kontakt