And it’s not some self-deluding nostalgia trip. I’m also honestly dazzled by the band’s output since they reformed in 2002 after nearly two decades defunct.
I maintain that Mission of Burma is the only rock reunion out of the thousands in the past decade which sounds like unfinished business rather than uninspired retread. Roger Miller, Clint Conley and Peter Prescott’s other musical projects in the intervening years were decidedly not Mission of Burma, but all these other projects—from club bands to academic-friendly post-modern jazz to silent movie scores— have informed their original union without digressing from it. A lot of bands which have gotten back together sound like they’ve awkwardly regressed. Mission of Burma’s sound always had a straightahead directness to it—they basically coined post-punk music as we know it—but there was always a complexity to what they did, an intelligence and curiosity they didn’t disguise. Now their current phase has lasted longer than their original run, and there are ever more theories to expound—with the emphasis on “pound.”
If anything, this fourth post-reunion album sounds closer to the earliest Mission of Burma records than the last three did. The production especially is rawer, and the vocals even sound young. There’s the same sense of spontaneous experimentation in the guitar solos, as on “Semi-Pseudo-Sort-of Plan.” But these are new songs, not retreads. “Add in Unison” opens with akilter rhythms, then unexpectedly becomes a steady drum beat and shout. “Opener,” which closes the album, is a wild instrumental that’s as mainstream as the band gets, but is actually a perversion of the rock work-out, with confounding changes, musical jokes and a final mantra of “Forget what you know.” Glad to see Mission of Burma hasn’t followed their own advice there, and continues to build on what they learned so well three decades ago.