Of the countless punk and indie rock reunions that have occurred in the past decade, Mission of Burma’s has been, by far, the most satisfying and most productive. After being inactive for two decades, the Boston post-punk trio returned with hunger and energy, but most importantly, an intensity greater than anyone could have expected. And while Bauhaus gave one final album, and Kevin Shields promises that there will be new My Bloody Valentine material forthcoming, Mission of Burma is on their third release since reuniting, with new album The Sound The Speed The Light marking the point where the amount of material released in the band’s second phase is officially double that of the first.
It comes as something of a surprise for a band who existed for such a short period of time to become reliable workhorses after an extended absence. Even better is the fact that this recent string of albums is so consistently good. ONoffON was good, The Obliterati was fantastic. And with The Sound The Speed The Light, they haven’t slowed down or softened any. In fact, the album seems even more raw and noisy than usual. Essentially, it’s a punk rock record, albeit Mission of Burma’s punk rock record, and there is absolutely no reason I can come up with not to find that reassuring, if not really exciting.
The first sign that The Sound The Speed The Light is going to be a success lies in the title of leadoff track, “1,2,3, Partyy!” But, chuckle-worthy as that name might be, the song itself is an even greater riot, a furious raveup that finds Clint Conley laying down rules for, what else, partying: “One/ Don’t look at anyone/ Two/ Drink only when drunken to.” On “Possession,” the band treads into an anxiously building rumble, loaded with scratchy guitar squeals and an irresistibly militant rhythm. “Forget Yourself” is one of the album’s mightiest peaks, booming with Peter Prescott’s fierce tom-heavy beats juxtaposed against a relatively subdued, though no less jagged melody and Roger Miller’s command, “burn yourself up.” An unexpected organ and some backwards vocals lends a psychedelic air to itchy jangler “SSL 83,” and “One Day We Will Live There” sounds just a bit more unhinged and chaotic than usual, which makes it more fun if a bit messier.
Then comes “So Fuck It,” which is as reckless as one might expect, the somber and quite pretty “Feed,” the fists-in-the-air shouter “Good Cheer” and climactic closer “Slow Faucet.” By the end of the album’s 12-track run, the listener is ever more tenderized, though the beating process is administered with a strong share of melody and texture. Pretty much everything on The Sound The Speed The Light rocks, and hard at that. The sonic experimentation and melodic surprises come at a much slower clip this time around, but Mission of Burma’s game is still a formidable one. Frankly, Mission of Burma is the only band making albums that sound like this, so I’d be happy to have more where this came from.
Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
Fugazi – Repeater
Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
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.