Mission of Burma were smart. They made their “comeback” in 2002, two years before releasing any new recorded material. The legendary Boston post-punkers’ first priority was to hit the road and remind the world how truly badass they once were, and apparently, still are. From a nationwide tour to a series of appearances at All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals, Burma took their time scorching the ear drums of attendees, leaving an unforgettable impression and at the same time teasing their new songs.
What’s most remarkable about Mission of Burma’s return, however, is how true to form their new material is. Unlike the beefed-up new albums by Wire and Killing Joke, ONoffON is a logical follow-up to 1982’s Vs., only arriving 22 years later. Though they’ve aged considerably and guitarist Roger Miller has tinnitus that requires him to wear headphones while performing, Burma is as ferocious and fiery as ever. And they managed to capture that vicious energy on ONoffON.
The record is loud and raucous, but dynamic. There’s no studio gloss here, folks. Mission of Burma sound as raw as they were in the 80s, and just as dangerous. Just take a look at the sign on the back of their CD jacket that reads: “No New McCarthy Era.” They’re ready to kick some ass, and the fact that they’re all old enough to know better makes it that much cooler.
Miller, Conley and Prescott are in fine form here. “The Setup” is loud and straightforward, with plenty of tape loop squeals to break up the power chords. Bob Weston gets points for raising the volume of his loops, as Martin Swope’s were always buried in the mix of older records, defeated by primitive recording techniques. “The Enthusiast,” “Dirt” and “Wounded World” are equally ferocious, but more angular and abrasive, unlike “The Setup”‘s one-two opening punch. And “Wounded World” is made even better by what could possibly be a cello, and instrument that turns the tender “Prepared” into the band’s most lovely ballad, proving that it’s more punk to try something new than make an album of the same twelve songs.
It’s a good thing that Mission of Burma took the extra time to prepare for their new full-length, because 22 years is a really long time to go on hiatus. But we fare better in the long run for having a more confident and powerful Burma. And what with our tumultuous political atmosphere and media saturated with untalented hacks, they couldn’t have come a moment sooner. They must have known how desperately we needed them, because Mission of Burma didn’t want to return, they had to.
Husker Du – Zen Arcade
Mission of Burma – Vs.
Jawbox – For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.