Mission of Burma
Signals, Calls, and Marches, Vs., and The Horrible Truth About Burma (Matador)
Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., May 2, 2008
Mission of BurmaSignals, Calls, and Marches (Matador)
Mission of BurmaVs. (Matador)
Mission of BurmaThe Horrible Truth About Burma (Matador)
The second coming of Mission of Burma's Vs. goes down this summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival. The Boston quartet – guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley, drummer Peter Prescott, and sound manipulator Martin Swope – defined innovation, and the fact that they created a sound imitated to this day in two albums speaks volumes. With these three LPs recently out-of-print, Matador's "definitive editions" of MoB's Ace of Hearts Records catalog are especially exciting, all three remastered by original producer/Ace owner Rick Harte. The tight, stabbing "Academy Fight Song" b/w "Max Ernst" 7-inch now opens 1981's Signals, along with two previously unreleased studio tracks, and '82's sprawling Vs. gets an additional four songs. Horrible Truth, the band's posthumous 1985 live release of their final 1983 tour, also features four bonus tracks from NYC and Detroit. The liner notes are flush with archival photos and gems such as Miller's audiology report from 1982 and a 1983 rejection letter from Warner Bros., but the group's feral, stop-on-a-dime Clash-like punk, buttressed by a new musical angularity that would come to define the emerging universe of post-punk, remains as disconcertingly primal as ever. The bull's-eye is, thus, three DVDs of live performances. Signals' black-and-white collection from '79 and '80 is pre-MTV in its artiness, but the two '83 sets from the Bradford Hotel in Boston are of particular interest. Though the band's clearly road-weary – Miller already wearing rifle-range earmuffs to protect his deteriorating hearing – they're unrelenting. The afternoon set accompanying Vs. starts with the two-minute punk killer "The Ballad of Johnny Burma" and keeps the pace from there, while Horrible Truth's evening show stretches a marathon 17 songs and ends with sweat and "Academy Fight Song," visualizing a band not at their peak but just getting started.
(Signals, Calls, and Marches; The Horrible Truth)