Album Review: Mission Of Burma – The Sound The Speed The Light

by Christopher Rogers on October 12, 2009

Mission Of Burma - The Sound The Speed The Light

When their members get around the age of fifty, most bands have packed it in. Predictable patterns. Old canards. Comfortable constructive crutches to lean on.

Not Mission Of Burma.

Since their tinnitus-repudiating reformation in 2002, the proto proto-post-punk band have been extrapolating their bracing once-and-future sound into new and fascinating constructs. Let it not be said that these guys are not willing to take chances. Released today, The Sound The Speed The Light is Mission Of Burma’s newest riposte against stagnancy.

There is no easy way to explain the music that MoB create. Suffice it to say that you begin with a foundation of late-1970s’ east coast punk. From there, everything becomes wonderfully unruly, like morning bedhead hair gone utterly right. On top of that three-piece rock base, you get this: careening guitar lines that can be maniacal or cold as rain or overwhelmingly anthemic, backed by furiously shifting tempos from the rhythm section, subtle soundscapes burble in the back of the mix, and amid the racket, drummer Peter Prescott’s joyous involuntary bellowing.

Guitarist Roger Miller’s ear problems prompted the band’s dissolution in 1983. Now armed with shooter’s earmuffs and a legion of fans who’d either missed them while they were away or discovered them while they were gone, Mission Of Burma gallop forward.

May we all look as good when we get 'round 50 years old...

May we all look as good when we get 'round 50 years old...

The Sound The Speed The Light is the third LP that MoB have released post-reformation, and it maps further the musical chances that these three gentlemen greybeards are willing to take.

The album bounds out of the gate with “1, 2, 3, Partyy!” Cantering guitar lines, ironic-ish wordplay sung-spoken through a smirk, and Prescott’s holler cutting a swath through the middle of the mix.

Producer/engineer/fan-of-the-Chicago-Cubs Bob Weston (The Volcano Suns, Shellac Of North America) has filled Martin Swope’s band slot for tape manipulation and sound tweaking. The backwashing textures lent to the mix pre/post-figure Radiohead’s Kid A texture tricks, especially during “SSL 83” when refracted voices mumble and gibber along in the back of the song.

Not everything goes well or becomes as triumphant as “After The Rain,” or “1, 2, 3, Partyy!,” or “Fuck It,” but where Mission Of Burma stretch a song or concept or notion too far is still territory willfully past where any other band has ever tread. Better to challenge than to stay safe. Especially at their age.

So, what happens to the punk who grows up? How does one evolve?

Bottom line: You’re only as old as you feel. Mission Of Burma prove it, taking no shortage of risks on The Sound The Speed The light and daring to ask “what can we do next?”

Christopher Rogers

Christopher Rogers is a journalist / developer / enthusiast from and about the San Francisco Bay Area. His favorite secret about the SF Bay Area is that -- --- --- ---- ---- ---- - -- ------ ----, --- - ---'- ------ ------, -- ------ --- -------.

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