Mission Of Burma


What ever happened to killing your idols? In the post-punk heyday destroying the established pop cannon of the then recent past was the key to willing into existence a bright new cultural tomorrow brimming with endless possibilities. Sure in practice that sort of ideological futurist purity is impossible to live up to, but it was the intent that counted, representing a commitment to revolutionary progress, as well as an eagerness to challenge and confuse rather than mollycoddle audiences. And, of course, it led to the creation of heaps of brilliant records.

These days this is no longer the case, the radical noisniks of yore have been justifiably canonised, and thus you’re unlikely to see young bands promising to piss on the bloated oeuvre of Throbbing Gristle, or threatening to light Mark E. Smith on fire as punishment for his decadent strangle on the nation’s taste (What a world that would be eh?) Of course those groups were always far too niche for their symbolic destruction to hold as much weight as say exploding the misongysitic blues rock pomp of the Rolling Stones did. But the other element at play is that for the most part these groups failed to age disgracefully, and bands like Wire and The Fall are still releasing albums every bit as vital as those they released decades ago.

Which brings us to Mission of Burma, who like The Fall and Wire are still going as strong as ever. The Bostonian art-punks are on their fourth album since their 2002 reunion, which saw the band picking up right where they left off with seemingly not a single day having gone by. It’s a trick that few others have managed to pull off, with the Pixies and the Stooges being notable failures in that regard. Unsound finds them on as fine a form as ever; indeed it’s a struggle to process that this is the work of a band formed over 30 years ago.

Mission Of Burma were always unashamedly a rock band at heart unlike their more overtly anti-rockist British peers, albeit a brainy, razor sharp, and abrasive one, which is fine a thing as any to be. In theory their brand of loud, jagged, hook laden, rhythmically tighter-than-a-suspension-bridge post punk should feel like old hat after a decade of telecaster wielding indie twits tediously citing Gang Of Four as inspiration, but that couldn’t be further from the case. It’s a damn difficult thing to get this sort of thing right and it crucially requires some brains, which Mission Of Burma have in spades, and that’s an all too rare commodity in guitar bands these days.

Unsound finds them as dynamically inventive and taut as ever, and in songwriting terms finds them running the gamut from straight up anthemic barnstormers – ‘7’s’ could have come straight off their first EP – to more obtuse groove based songs, to best of all delightfully obtuse AND anthemic stompers. The band have been improbably consistent, and if you’ve listened to Mission Of Burma before you’ll know what to expect from this album, but it’s hard to fault the band for being steadily excellent. And indeed Mission Of Burma sounding the same as ever is still the sound of guitar music momentarily becoming vibrant, vital and rife with possibility. It’s a feeling that few (if any) new rock albums released this year have managed to imbue.

So there you have it; Mission Of Burma are excellent, their new album is equally excellent, and an easy contender for best rock album of the year has been made by a group who formed over 30 years ago. That’s an unacceptable state of affairs, and one that demands challenge from the young. As much as it might hurt it’s time to start killing idols again.

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