Review : Mission of Burma - Unsound
PitchforkA decade into their second career, Mission of Burma have become the musical equivalent of an athlete who succeeds with fundamentals over flash, or a team that defends its way into the playoffs every year. There aren't tons of transcendent moments on their four post-reunion albums, and it's unlikely any band will be inspired to cover any of the 52 songs they've recorded since 2002 (unlike their first go-round, when they made such gems that even Moby paid tribute). But there's not a weak second to be found, and each record is winningly relentless. Whenever it seems like time for a lull, the quartet hits hard with another rock-solid tune. In the process they shame more exciting bands who catch fire here and there but can't sustain the same kind of heat.
Ironically, the quartet did shake things up a bit when making Unsound. According to press materials, they switched instruments on some songs and recorded in their rehearsal space rather than a proper studio. You can hear some small differences, most obviously when Bob Weston's trumpet adds some mayhem to a few tracks. But their core sound remains as it ever was: a punk-derived mix of brains and muscle, as obsessed with angles and time-shifts as battle-cry choruses. And they continue to meld three distinct styles: the twists and turns of Roger Miller, the melodic anthems of Clint Conley, and the burly bark of Peter Prescott.
That meld is clear from the start of Unsound, which opens with Miller's slanted riffs in "Dust Devil", moves into Conley's fluid hooks in "Semi-Psuedo-Sort-of-Plan", then dives into Prescott's throaty "Sectionals in Mourning". There's still something magical about how Burma can do justice to those three voices-- ones that have proved worthy of sustaining their own bands (see Volcano Suns and Consonant)-- yet combine them into a clear vision. That vision persists through songs that seem repetitive at first, but on closer inspection prove to have intricate layers. Take the Conley-sung "Second Television". The first few times through, I heard it as a basic album-sustainer, but at some point all the small parts and tiny changes revealed something more complex. Maybe all Burma songs are best observed under a microscope-- there's often a world of sonic events and choices inside each one....full text
GuardianBoston art-noise outfit Mission of Burma only managed one critically lauded album before splitting up when singer-guitarist Roger Miller developed tinnitus. However, since reactivating in 2002, they have quadrupled their back catalogue, displaying just why they've been cited as an influence by acts as diverse as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Moby and Graham Coxon. This exuberant fifth album again shows they're still a force to be reckoned with, while stretching their tuneful, time-signature-shifting style ever further. Running the gamut from Gang of Four-style jerky, punky funk to grunge to Pere Ubu/Van Der Graaf Generator's controlled chaos, each song is packed with hooks, tunes and a sense of untamed glee. Riffs collide into each other; choruses invite you to sing along; some lyrics ("This is hi-fi!" "Forget what you know!") are shouted out over the melodic cacophony to double the effect. "No time! To reflect!" in particular could be a manifesto. They are certainly a band making the most of their extra time....full text
PastemagazineWe all know the story by now, but it bears repeating now that we’re on album number four in Mission of Burma’s impressive second act. Taking a 20-year hiatus would be enough to upend most bands—or, at the very least, render them former shells of themselves—but Mission of Burma continues to make some truly glorious noise on Unsound.
By today’s standards this new collection might not come off as particularly groundbreaking, but it doesn’t mean it’s not a big and ferocious ball of ear candy. And there aren’t many bands out there so ably using their gray matter to make the kind of anthemic rock that perpetually dances in the red. Like all Burma records, Unsound is not a product of its time—they may be from Boston, but they might as well be from another planet.
Things get otherworldly quickly on “Semi-Pseudo-Sort-of Plan,” whose guitars bend and break over the song’s stinging bass line. The guitars throughout are massive, with special attention given to the equally powerful rhythm section. The interplay between Roger Miller and Clint Conley is as apparent as ever. For every one of Miller’s barked, herky-jerky songs (“Opener”) there’s a go-for-the-throater from Conley (“7’s” is easily the best of his bunch here). But it’s far from their show as Bob Weston of Shellac lends his own songs, as well as trumpet on “What They Tell Me” and “Add In Unison.”
The members of Mission of Burma continue to outthink and outplay bands half their age. More impressive is the fact that the band has yet to take a misstep (of course, having a 20-year gap in your career is a surefire way to avoid such a thing). But like any veterans worth their salt, Mission of Burma smartly take their time with each record—and Unsound is the sound of a band that takes the same painstaking approach as they did three decades ago. Maybe there’s a fountain of youth after all....full text
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