Mission of Burma : The Sound, The Speed, The Light

<img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/missionofburmathesound.jpg" alt=" " />The horrible truth about Burma is that <i>The Sound</i> vs. older material is no contest. ...
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Mission of Burma : The Sound, The Speed, The Light

When Mission of Burma broke up in 1983, the art-punk band (“too art for the punks, too punk for the arts”) proceeded to have an incredible posthumous life, especially considering their limited output & lifespan.  They were cited as an inspiration by just about any punk band that wanted to be more than just punks, their live shows were still legendary (including live tape-looping by Martin Swope), and the 1988 self-titled release of their compiled works was, at the time, the longest CD ever made.  Thus, their reunion in 2002 (though with Bob Weston replacing Swope on tape-loops – but still using the same early-eighties tech!) was greeted very warmly.  What’s more, this wasn’t no Pixies ‘just play the old hits, make some serious $$$’ reunion, as Burma put out a new record two years later, ONoffON.  And they’ve kept putting out new records, now with their third, The Sound, The Speed, The Light.  Unfortunately, everything they do is still in the shadow of their acclaimed early work, and The Sound doesn’t break that mold.

Songs like “That’s When I Reached For My Revolver” & “Academy Fight Song” have aged very well in the past near-thirty years, but Burma occasionally came close to them in the twenty-first century, the biting punk, with just enough catch, of “Careening With Conviction” or “Nancy Reagan’s Head” (both from 2006’s The Obliterati).  Burma’s most hook-laden tracks (usually from singer/bassist Clint Conley) have always been matched by harder art-rock (usually from singer/guitarist Roger Miller), like older pieces “Playland” & “Mica”, and The Obliterati‘s “1001 Pleasant Dreams” or “Donna Sumeria” came close to those as well.  But The Sound lacks those high notes.

Not that there aren’t good songs on the record.  The leveled power of “After the Rain” or pseudo-title track “SSL 83” are matched well with driving force.  There’s a darker, sadder, more restrained Burma on “Feed”, and “Comes Undone” truly has the feeling of ‘coming undone’.  But maybe the finest piece on The Sound, the sadder, lost “Forget Yourself” won’t make you ‘forget’ about classic “Forget” – why not name another one, “This Is a Photograph”?…

When a late, beloved band reunites, it’s amazing.  When they put out a new record, as long as it doesn’t suck & they still play the old hits live, it’s even more amazing.  But by the time of the second or third post-reunion record, the new stuff starts crowding out the old stuff, and the comparisons become sharper.  Occasionally, a band’s new stuff is as good as their classics (witness Dinosaur Jr.’s BeyondQRO review – and FarmQRO review – or The Verve’s ForthQRO review), but usually, the old material is still seen through rose-colored glasses (and it’s good, no matter what – there’s a reason this band was so missed…), while the new material feels like the opener at a show – yes, you’re nice & enjoyable, but you’re not what one came here to see & can’t shake the feeling, however unjustified, that you’re what’s keeping one from that.  And The Sound, The Speed, The Light, while good, just can’t quite overcome that.

MP3 Stream: “Forget Yourself”

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