Tuesday, March 09, 2004

#49) Mission Of Burma - Vs. (released in 1982, I bought it on CD from Arboria sometime near the end of high school. At first I was pissed that I had to buy the albums seperately since the compilation was out of print, but in the long run it didn't matter since I needed to own every note they recorded anyhow).

It’s rare enough that an album opens with a relentless tsunami like “Secrets,” voices and instruments spilling forth with increasingly berserk intensity (yet remaining somewhat danceable), rarer still that an album can consistently maintain that edge. It takes a mixture of technical skill, tangible emotion and energy that few groups can accomplish. Proof that Mission Of Burma pulled it off can be found in the fact that people are actually excited about their upcoming reunion album after being out of commission for twenty (TWENTY!) years. Novelty alone might have kept the buzz going for their initial concerts, but you don’t get people excited about an LP without still having the goods (Geeta says the new disc is great!).

Until this year, Vs. was Mission Of Burma’s only full-length (though the tremendous EP Signals, Calls And Marches – #254 on this list! – and plenty of worthwhile live and demo material have been released). The sound is more expansive than on the 1981 EP, with the power trio emitting dynamic rock that’s in equal parts complex and (especially in the case of bassist Clint Conley’s compositions) anthemic. By comparison, Husker Du sounds like a happy go-lucky pop combo. Most bands that draw this much blood from their instruments tend to descend into generic, incoherent thrashola; white noise that’s easy to tune out. Mission Of Burma proves how much bristling energy and sonic novelty can be fit into an actual song (emo guys who would like to stop sounding so goddamn emo should check out the ballad “Dead Pool” for an example of cathartic beauty through sound devoid of shrill whine). “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” wouldn’t feel like such a violent, gleeful barrage if it wasn’t verse chorus verse.

Though it’s clearly guitarist/tinnitus poster boy Roger Miller and the rhythm section that creates most of the fury, credit tape manipulator Martin Swope for many of the inexplicable sounds that seem to crop up in these tracks. Live, Swope would actually make of loops of noise DURING A SONG and play them immediately – check out The Horrible Truth About Burma for some fantastic examples of his ingenuity. Since the 1988 Mission Of Burma CD (which collected Signals, Vs. and some extra tracks) is out of print, Vs., currently available with album-quality bonus tracks like “Forget” and “Progress,” is definitely the first thing to pick up.

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