Mission Of Burma

And what's their mission? To SHAVE the World! Heh heh heh.

Good old Burma Shave jokes, cracking everybody up.

*special introductory paragraph!
*Academy Fight Song 7"
*Signals, Calls And Marches EP
*The Horrible Truth About Burma
*Peking Spring
*The Obliterati
*The Sound The Speed The Light

Mission of Burma is a four-piece band from Boston, MA that is apparently considered one of the first 'post-punk' bands. It took me forever to get into them, for the following reasons:

1. Guitarist/singer Roger Miller uses a very scratchy guitar tone, reminiscent of Gang Of Four's Entertainment!. One must get past the sterile off-putting timbre to realize how melodic the guitar lines actually are.

2. Singer/guitarist Roger Miller is an extremely untrained singer with a voice that sounds like some guy in your dorm who likes football. His amateurish delivery makes the music sound a lot sloppier than it actually is.

3. Their songwriting encompasses so many different approaches that it's hard to figure out exactly what kind of band they're trying to be. Punk? Anthemic classic rock? Moody post-punk? Quirky art music? Straightforward indie rock? Boring shouty garbage? This disorienting collusion of styles makes the band sound more confused and directionless than it probably is.

As a younger youth, I was unable to reconcile these qualities with my preconceived notions of what music should sound like. However, now that I'm old, slow, fat, bald, wrinkly, grey and dead, I finally GET it. Or at very least, it gets ME. Alternately hooky, bizarre, bombastic, somber, noisy, silly, brilliant, kickass and lazy, the songs of Mission of Burma are alternately hooky, bizarre, bombastic, s

Reader Comments

I'm not sure whether you still quite "get" Burma, but kudos for reviewing them. I disagree about Roger Miller though...he's a fine singer. Peter comes closer to your description, but I don't see how that would affect anyone's overall enjoyment of Burma considering that he only sings on a few songs.

Academy Fight Song 7" - Ace Of Hearts 1980
Rating = 8

Right out of the literal starting gate where they keep bands until it's time for them to chase the rabbit, Mission of Burma was already confounding stylistic expectations. You hear Clint Conley's "Academy Fight Song" and you're all like, "Hay, this is an anthemic uptempo band led by a bassist/singer who plays chords on his bass and sings like Mick Jones from The Clash!" But then you turn it over to Roger Miller's "Max Ernst" and your ass is totally, "WTfuck? Who is this SCHMO singing? He sounds like he just walked in from the bowling alley next door! And what's with this crazy-ass SONG!? It starts all pretty but then hits a scraggly break and then there's this ugly bit and now they're shouting 'Dada!' That ain't right!"

But the thing is -- as instantly hooky as "Academy Fight Song" is, upon repeated listens it's that confounded b-side that starts to seem more compelling. Rough around the edges certainly, but.... wait for it... unique! Side A could be The Clash, but Side B could only be... waaaaaaait for iiiiiiitt.....


No one on the corner got swagga-like pus.

Reader Comments

it's fucking ACADEMY FIGHT SONG b/w Max Ernst. R.E.M. covered it on the Green tour. Of course it's good. 8.

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Signals, Calls And Marches EP - Ace of Hearts 1981
Rating = 8

Nobody likes being called a nitwit, but I was talking to this asshole the other day and he says to me, "

Say, I hate to interrupt such an important sentence but I can't help but notice that one of my co-workers has programmed his cell phone to say "Whassuuuup? Whassuuuuup?" when it rings. You see, it's 2002.

Specifically, January 8th, 2009.

Let me tell you a few things about Mission of Burma. The first is that bassist Clint Conley is a heck of a bassman, throwing out gorgeous chords and intelligent breaks like the cliché'd "frustrated guitarist." The second is that they often employ group chanting as background vocals, which - combined with Miller's unfun guitar tone - gives them a sort of strident, militaristic feel at times. The third is that drummer Peter Prescott oft-times chooses herky-jerk rhythms and downbeat thubba-thubbing rather than a normal 4/4 backbeat. And the fourth is "tape manipulator/sound engineer" Martin Swope, whose entire raisin-to-eat appears to be "When they're singing, sample like one line. Then play it back at different funny speeds for the rest of the song." It's sort of an interesting effect, but surely they didn't pay him a full 1/4th!?

The band's most well-known song is Conley's "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," which appears on this EP. This awesomely emotional track once again presents the band as a ringing anthemic group of hookmasters -- only for Miller to immediately kick you in the dick with his tard atonal funkathon "Outlaw." But before you start thinking you've got it all figured out ("Ahhh, Conley's the normal one and Miller's the WEIRD one!"), Miller follows "Outlaw" with not just a straightforward pop song ("Fame And Fortune"), but an anthemic rocker as Conleyey as Conley's!!!!("This Is Not A Photograph")!!!!!

By this point in the band's catalog, you have to pretty much face the fact that you'll never know what the next song's going to sound like. Apparently influenced equally by Pere Ubu, Gang of Four, The Clash, a love for melody, and an aspiration to innovate, the band simply doesn't have a single identifiable style. I don't know why the band hits me this way, because it's not like every Beatles song sounds the same or anything. But the way Mission of Burma so unexpectedly heaves back and forth between "obvious, simple, hooky," "bombastic, anthemic, fist-pumping" and "nuts, avant-garde, 'What in Sam Hill!?'" seems particularly excessive. In a good way, though!

Not every song Knocks-A-Homa out of the park; "Fame And Fortune" is a bit too basic, and closing instrumental "All World Cowboy Romance," though a lovely and evocative electric strummer, certainly doesn't need to drag on for 5:13. I know I complain a lot on this site about songs dragging on too long, but it's less about the length than the repetition. For example, I love Pink Floyd and their songs go on for like 500 years -- which is fine because there are so many different things going on in them. "All World Cowboy Romance" on the other hand is just some pleasant chords being strummed on an electric guitar for five minutes, without any singing or saxophone solos or orchestral arrangements or cash register noises or voices saying "He was cruisin' for a bruisin'" or "I certainly was in the right" or "I've been mad for fucking years" or "I'm not really frightened of dying" or "I know I've been mad, as we all have" or "There is no world cowboy romance really -- matter of fact, it's ALL world cowboy romance." And this is the downfall of "All World Cowboy Romance."

Also, you'd have to play it like twenty times in a row to get to the "There's no place like home" scene.

Reader Comments

MOBY covered "That's When I Reach for My Revolver". MOBY, dude. Yeah that's how I first heard the song, but I still liked it even then. Even though his cover sucks ASS, I could still tell it was a good song. "All World Cowboy Romance" predicts a thousand shoegaze bands. Conley's bass-playing is downright McCartneyesque on that track. "Red" has this awesome part at the end where Swope's tape loops turn the "Ooooo-ooo-OOOO-ooo" vocal hook into this sireny "WEOOO-oo, Weoooo, Weooo, WEOO-OO" noise that kicks ass. A band making a record this great this early into their career is remarkable. 9.

Add your thoughts?

Vs. - Ace of Hearts 1982
Rating = 8

It's a sad old world we live in when even good old Mark Prindle, Friend of the Chicken, can't catch a break. Did you hear the latest? My damn boss owes me over $9,000 in back wages. As such, I've had to give her the old Left Shoe McGee, sign up for unemployment, and start researching employment lawyers. If I can't get my money through a lawsuit, I'll get revenge some other way. What with the whole OCD thing, I don't take "getting fucked over" very well.

Say, if you saw me on Fox News' "Red Eye" this past week (1/9-1/10), you probably thought to yourself, "Wait a minute. Right after Mark complained about Hercules & Love Affair and Cut Copy trying to bring back disco, there was a strange edit that resulted in the odd non-joke, 'The thing about disco, I mean, there's a reason it died in the first place. Secondly, maybe God just doesn't like disco?' What in the Hill of Sam happened there?"

What happened is that I made an insensitive joke, and they cut it out. Here, for the first time anywhere, is what I actually said on that fateful 2009 eve:

"The thing about disco, I mean, there's a reason it died in the first place. Secondly, and I don't mean to make light of a tragedy, but maybe we should take the recent events in John Travolta's life as a hint that maybe God just doesn't like disco?"

Hilarious, isn't it? No, of course it is! (not)! Offensive though, sure.

But I stand by the point I was making about new artists. Too many of them seem to be just nostalgically imitating old styles. On the show, I only mentioned '70s disco and the '60s r'n'b of Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash, Duffy and Raphael Saadiq, but there are also way too many 'hip' new artists trying to recreate, first of all, '80s synth-pop. Exactly when did The Human League go from "horrifying embarrassment" to "international artistic treasure"? Somebody take Hot Chip, Max Tundra, Neon Neon and their little keyboardy pals and shove 'em up a chimney flue. You hear me? FLUE!!!

But there's also a "second of all," and that would be early '90s lo-fi indie rock. What slacker-nostalgic bands like No Age, Times New Viking and Blank Dogs don't seem to realize is that groups like Pavement, Sebadoh and the Grifters started out lo-fi because they HAD to! In the early '90s, unless you had thousands of dollars to record in a studio, a lo-fi cassette recorder was your only choice. These days with ProTools and whatnot -- if anything, your band should sound TOO good! There should be a 'HI-fi' movement! Get on the stick, you young people with the full beards.

As for Mission of Burma's Vs., it has this awesome song about a glorified version of a pellet gun NO HANG ON! I'VE MADE A HILARIOUS MISTAKE!

Vs. represents everything I've already said about Mission of Burma, taken to the full-length LP level. Though filled with excellent tracks, it veers confusingly between fist-pumping rock anthems, straightforward pretty songs and bizarre weird-o-grams. Here, look at this so simplified it's nearly worthless breakdown:

2. BIZARRE - An 'eh' song whose shambolic drum approach makes the whole thing sound like it's falling apart for the entire first half.
3. BIZARRE - Awesomely eerie note descension, with the song itself timed to the speed of Miller's tremelo pedal.
4. BIZARRE - Herky-jerky quirky!
6. TOTAL SHIT -The drummer writes a song with his dick.
8. BIZARRE - The entire middle half of the song is devoted to feedback echoey noises and tapes of it, so there's just a bunch of high-pitched wickity beeps swooping all over the place! Then they sing a full-group ROUND!
11. BIZARRE - Funny metal-funk with more high-pitched harmonic shenanigans!

As you can see, I'm in no mood to review a record today. But Burma playa hatas need to listen closa (specifically past Roger Miller's weak voice) because Vs. showcases a smart and experimental rock band running on all three cylinders!

I still think "Learn How" and "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" stink though, and "Train" better watch who it calls an asshole.

Reader Comments

I used to hate "Learn How" but now it sounds like a hard rock version of the Fall to me. Which I'm not opposed to one bit. By the way Swope does way more shit than you imply with the tape loops, and you can really hear it on this album(When he declined to join the reunion and they replaced him with Bob Weston, THAT's when the concept became pointless). "Trem Two" ends with a high-pitched piano noise jumping in once every measure on the first upbeat (or second eighth-note if that made no sense). And what's with that weirdass drum solo in the middle of "Secrets"? This is a band with IDEAS, looking to turn pop and punk inside-out to stare at each other from right angles and then set everything back upright again. Or whatever they were trying to do. And the CD version has 4 great bonus tracks - "Forget" is damn near proto-emo as Miller's harsh guitar tone suddenly becomes beautiful, "OK/No Way" is a baffling march-off-time 5/4 rocker, "Laugh The World Away" is a weird WEIRD song with all kinds of tape loop effects, and "Progress" is a classic Burma fist-pumper which includes the line "Chances are they're just a pile of shit!". 10.

When I first heard Mission of Burma I appreciated what it was that they were trying to do (the poppier elements especially really stuck out in my mind), but ultimately there was something about the execution about their albums that made me feel cold and not fully submerged into their wold. This all changed though when I saw them play Montreal in 2004. What came across as affected and impersonal to me on their records was cast into a new light and became intensely human and embracing in a live setting. The drummer's periodic dives into chaos, the unhinged vocals, and the way Roger Miller and Clint Conley play all added up into this pulsing force that seemed so natural, and dare I say: mystical. Their energy was incredible and the way they structure their songs comes across so much differently live and in the moment than it ever did on their records.

A classic album, paving the way for countless underground/alternative bands (Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Chavez, etc.) well into the '90s. The only truly weak song is Train, while Einstein's Day is pretty much the greatest rock song ever written. Almost as good are the first two albums by Volcano Suns (Peter Prescott's post-Burma band), which were ironically just reissued on CD.

David Dickson
Hey Mark. Okay, I think among guitar-based raw-ish rock and roll, these records have impressed me in recent months:

Black Metal--VENOM, 1982
Something Better Change--DOA, 1980
Clouds Taste Metallic--FLAMING LIPS, 1995
Chuck Berry is on Top--CHUCK BERRY, 1959

These have not:

In the Nightside Eclipse--EMPEROR, 1994
A Gilded Eternity--LOOP, 1990
Anything by Comet Gain
THIS ^$^&!*& ALBUM

I think the reason is this: Even though none of these records really tickle my "styley" bone, with their raw energy and "wrong notes" and all, the former group at least appears to be. . . well, leading UP to something. Like, they all have a flow, sorta. A beginning and end. Plus I could see these songs being played in a different context. They're not necessarily inseparably wedded to their time and place, as you do.

The latter? Not a chance. Not only are they wedded to their style, THE STYLE NEVER VARIES. Like, the Emperor album never seems to have a climax of any kind. It's just BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-oh-wait-that's-the-end. Emotionally, I never get involved. It's kind of like the difference between Alien and Alien vs. Predator. With one, I'm constantly being jerked back and forth, and it gives contrast. With the other, it's all forth, no back. Monotony.

But at least those guys sounded genuinely scary. These Mission of Burma guys? They sound like high-tempo sarcasm embodied. AND THAT'S IT. Now, I know the Flaming Lips (and many others) owe a lot to the innovations of this album, but they're more well-loved and known for a reason: Sarcasm is one tool in their arsenal, not the domineering one. AND SOMETIMES THEY SLOW DOWN, DAMMIT. Yes, decadent bourgeois Western culture needs a little raw energy and stuff, but not for 45 minutes straight, for the love of meth.

In short, the main reason I wrote this comment is to weigh in on Cut Copy. (Keep in mind, all I've heard is their In Ghost Colours album.) Not sure why you would call that "'70's disco-revival". It sounds a hell of a lot more like New Order than anything John Travolta would dance to. Also, there's a lot of Pink Floyd-ish interludes inserted in there. And a few Pixies tributes. You know what? If you liked Heartbeat City, you'll like that album. So their MySpace page sounds like the Beegees? Don't trust it. Probably trying to attract yuppies, or something.

Add your thoughts?

The Horrible Truth About Burma - Ace of Hearts 1985
Rating = 6

The horrible truth about Burma is that it owes me back wages exceeding $9,000 gross. This live album features two songs each from Signals and Vs., a couple of covers, and an unprecedented EIGHT previously unreleased originals! Unfortunately, most of them fit into the "straightforward" category, sounding more like post-Zen Arcade Husker Du songs than anything else -- and underwhelming ones to boot, if I may call you a boot for a moment.

The band also sounds even sloppier than on the studio records, kinda like when a paycheck bounced in August 2008 and you on a whim decided to check all of your bank deposits for the year. You naturally expected to find a bunch of smart, hooky anthems like "Academy Fight Song" and "This Is Not A Photograph," but what you discovered was that your boss had simply failed to pay you three or four paychecks earlier in the year. You hadn't noticed this earlier due to several factors - most notably that your boss worked at home and/or traveled often, so if she returned after two weeks and gave you a paycheck, it didn't seem as if you'd missed one.

The cover of The Stooges' "1970" is certainly energetic, but Roger Miller's 'clod next door' vocal shouts are certainly no Iggy Pop. How could they be? Sounds can't be an animated being. When you sent your manager a few emails about this issue, she did not respond. The next day she was not in the office, so you checked her Payroll book and found - in plain sight in the front of the book - three old paychecks made out to you, signed by her, and never given to you. When you told her about this find, she told you that the Payroll book is off-limits and that those checks would bounce if you tried to send them in. She then claimed ignorance, told you that you should've kept a closer eye on your paycheck schedule, and promised to get you all caught up by the end of 2008. Also, her Pere Ubu cover is terrible.

I applaud the band with hands full of other, smaller hands all clapping as well for their decision to make all of this rare material available to their fan base, even if it is for the most part lesser work. If nothing else, you get to hear more of Martin Swope's "looped voice" silliness. Plus, I would go to the ends of the Earth for the awesome harmonics-driven speedball "Dumbells" and hooky bass punker "Blackboard." And none of the new songs are bad; they just don't rank among the band's more memorable work. They're a bit simpler and more predictable -- like songs that a normal rock band would play.

But because you enjoyed the band and wanted to believe that it was just a big mistake, you were very apologetic (as if it was YOUR fault they wrote lesser songs!?) and continued working for them. They continued paying you every two weeks through the end of September, but seemed to be making no effort to pay for the money they'd earlier withheld. At the beginning of October, they asked if you would agree to a temporary reduction to four days a week. This, they said, would allow them to manage their cash flow and get you all paid up by the end of the year. Knowing what a difficult job market we're in at this time, you agreed. They told you that since you were only working four days a week, they would pay you monthly rather than bi-weekly: a paycheck at the end of each month. This promise they kept for October and November.

Let me stress here that you really wanted to trust them. You'd had no problems at all with them for your first four years as a fan, so you wanted to believe that they had your interests at heart. You no longer believe this, at all.

And believe me - it's not the live sound that makes these rare songs seem underwritten. Sitting alongside live renditions of "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," "Trem Two" and "Red," they are even more obviously the Vega to Vs.' Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Take "New Disco," for example. It's a perfectly enjoyable moody slowtune, but not only is it far, far too repetitive, but at the end of the year, it still owed you two 2008 bi-weekly paychecks, as well as your December paycheck. When it was finally able to meet with you on Thursday, January 8th, it handed you one of the two remaining 2008 bi-weekly paychecks and told you that you would receive the second one later in January. "Great!" you replied. "And my December check?"

"New Disco" replied that it "didn't make payroll" in December, because it felt it was more important to "get the company on square grounding" by paying rent, taxes and lawyer fees for an ill-advised lawsuit it had pursued against another song earlier in the year. You asked when you might receive payment for December, and it replied, "I don't know. Hopefully we'll be able to make it up some time this year."

That night, you emailed "New Disco" an ultimatum: get you all paid up by the end of January or you would speak to a lawyer. It didn't respond until three and a half days later - Monday morning - when it replied, "I'm in NJ today. We'll talk about your situation tomorrow." By this point, you had no trust left to give. You signed up for unemployment and called an employment lawyer.

Hey, it's not your fault. You did your job and it's only fair that Burma, your boss, Mission of Burma and "New Disco" pay you for the time you put in. Stop blaming yourself for not catching onto their devious scheme! What they did was immoral, unethical and illegal. Besides, "He Is, She Is" has a nice bendy high note and slidey-down bass line, but it's just too haphazard and messy to work in a live context.

In conclusion, The Horrible Truth About Burma is mainly for Vs. fans who just can't get enough and need MORE MORE MORE, like a greedy boss who owes you one bi-weekly 2008 check ($3,125 gross), plus your entire December 4-day-a-week paycheck and pay for January 5-8 (which together equal two full-time bi-weekly checks, or an additional $6,250 gross). Also, quite frankly, you wouldn't be surprised if the $3,000 check she gave you on January 8th winds up bouncing, which would bring your claim to $12,375. You firmly believe that she purposely withheld your payment so, if possible, you would like to sue her for an additional 25% plus lawyer fees.

But enough of me and my hypothetical situations.

Reader Comments

"New Disco" is apparently the song that birthed the whole tape loops idea. Each note in the melody is higher than the last, and it reaches upward and upward until they can all be combined to form an awful, oppressive harmonic chord and mess with your head. Awesome song. This record proves that they could've made a great jam band in the mid-70's, maybe had all the girls following them in VW buses instead of the Grateful Dead. They were always more psych than punk. I totally swiped my email address from the last song on this record. Also "Peking Spring" has a melodic backup vocal hook in the chorus that I still can't get out of my head. It's the one that goes "Ooo-oo-OO-oo-oo-OO-oo!" You should hear demos of some of the unreleased songs. They sound much flatter and underwritten than they do here. 7.

What an atrocious hypothetical situation.

As a man who makes only less than ten hypothetical thousand dollars a year, I can only offer my hypothetical sympathies.

But let it be known that I truly, hypothetically, feel for you. Seriously, that su-hypothetically-ucks out loud.

Add your thoughts?

Peking Spring - Taang! 1993
Rating = 7

This album features SEVEN songs from The Incredible Truth I Totally Can't Believe About Burma in STUDIO VERSIONS! STUDIO! STUDIO LINE FROM L'OREAL! Plus it has another version of "This Is Not A Photograph" and two other songs.

The Mission of Burma totally wrote some messy songs here and there, like they were in a big hurry, but it's impossible to deny their creative touch. They came up with a ton of great ideas, except on Onoffon, which is coming up soon and sucked.

This album features ten songs that would have been a second Mission Of Burma album except Roger Miller got tinnitus like a pussy gets tinnitus and your wife has to go to a gynecologist to

Except Roger Miller got tinnitus so they didn't finish the album. But there are some punk rock songs and some unfinished songs. Swope ruins songs with his dumbass "loops of vocals" bullshit. I love this band, but they couldn't hold it together! The two songs that weren't on Absolute Truth are as follows:

- "Sing-A-Long" - Fast, punky, catchy!!! Just a few chords, but real energetic and enjoyable! Echoed vocals. Fun bass line change later in song too.

- "Foreign Country" - Jungle beat, catchy bass line - then it switches to a dull part with skittery noises and different bass line. This song is a messy lost cause, more Swope bullshit. Okay, I guess. Not arranged very well.

If your choice is to buy either The Shitty-Ass Truth About Burma or this, then BUY THIS. Some of the songs are better live -- especially goddem "Dumbells," which kicks absolute ass live but just sounds confused here.

Life is difficult and scary. And I'll be dead before you know it. What then? Nothing.

Mission Of Burma is composed of smart people. The only reason for lower grades than 10 is that they half-ass it a lot. If they put their ALL-BRAINS into their songs, they'd have all 10's. But they tend to, say, come up with a KILLER part, and then switch to some shitty messy part that has no point or effect on anyone. But if you are sitting at home thinking, "Why, I've never heard Mission Of Burma," that is MUCKED UP. They were too smart to be ignored. Even if sometimes they were lazy.

I recommend this album over The Truth About Fucking Your Wife. It's better and less painful, even if it's not great great. This band needed a real singer too. Their singer was too sloppy and normal-sounding, like a guy who cleans your windows and then sings for your band.

I'm horrified because UFOs exist and aliens are going to murder us.

Nah, just kidding. The truth is as follows: People keep fucking and having stupid babies. There are billions of stupid people in the world right now. And I'm not smart at all, yet I can see this.

Add your thoughts?

Forget - Taang! 1988
Rating = 7

When I heard that Mission Of Burma was releasing a tribute to legendary French tennis star Guy Forget, I was beside myself with luck. "Will they include a stirring anthem about his 1986 grand slam at Roland Garros?" I hoped thoughtfully. "Will they include a song that's 5,669,934 minutes long in celebration of his career prize-money winnings?" I continued thinking many exciting and marvelous things, and then my spine jettisoned out of my back and flew up into space.

Ha ha! No no, I'm kidding. But when I learned that Mission Of Burma had an entire album of unreleased studio material "in the can" and indeed "in the marketplace for over two decades," I became pretty defensive and angry towards the whole world. Why didn't anybody TELL me about this goddamned album before I posted an incomplete Mission Of Burma page on my site and looked like a complete Dumbo wearing Dumbo clothes and carrying around a Dumbo toboggan? And look, if you want to live Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, more power to you but I've got enough trolls on the Internet, thanks.

Luckily, the very person who alerted me to Forget's existence also 'did me a solid' by uploading it to the Internet for me. I actually tried to 'do him a solid' in return, but with this low-fiber diet I wound up just f

On a more serious note, there's some ASSHOLE in my neighborhood who keeps bashing people in the head with a lead pipe and robbing them. Three in the last eight days, all on 90th Street. So if you see a guy with a lead pipe on 90th Street in your city, shoot now and ask questions later!

Forget has tons of extremely creative and unique passages on it, even if only about half of the songs sound finished. The others seem to lose their way as they go, as if the band only came up with one great part and weren't sure what to do with the rest of the song. Nevertheless, it's a must-purchase. Granted, it starts off with the worst song of all time and then track ten is the worst song ever recorded, but aside from those two, this is MUST-HAVE material for all Mission of Burma fans. Not only is your collection not complete without Forget -- it hasn't even started. Without this album, you've never even heard Mission of Burma, even if you own all their other albums and have seen them live 52 times. Don't ask me specifically why though. I just come up with the slogans.

Conley contributes a couple of sensitive melody makers (including "Hunt Again," which they would rework for Onoffon years later), but the focus is definitely on Miller's innovative guitar noisemaking. "Playland" begins with a rapid scraping of one chord and one off-chord (BRANK-a BRANK-a BRANK-a BRANK-a) that sticks around for like 15 seconds before you realize, "What a minute... That's the riff!" "Manic Incarnation" hammers away at an idiotic three-chord descension before suddenly lurching into a complete noise solo less than a minute in. "Active In The Yard"'s scraggly anti-chord verse is matched only by the virulently unmusical string-flaying of its bridge -- until the song suddenly turns into a lurching drunken folly of two sleazy slithery notes for a full MINUTE! Furthermore, "House Flaming" is one of the quirkiest punk rock tunes ever written (what the hell inspired those chord changes? the urge to confuse!?), "Anti Aircraft Warning" proffers yet another killer harmonics-driven guitar line, and even "Eyes Of Men" - a Conley song - uses as its chorus a martial-rhythmed reverberation of open-chord guitar noise. So if it's Big Anthem Rock you're after, stick to the title track or GET F@#$%D!

I'm sorry. I don't really want you to get f2345d.

(heh heh. little "shift key" humor for all the keyboard fans out there)

Buy this album. It is easily the creative equivalent of every other post-Vs. release, and I tell ya what, it's been a real gasser to have it on the show here today, visiting with us.

Speaking of which, who's the brain salad surgeon who gave Late Night to Jimmy Fallon? That guy is literally the least funny human on the planet. Have you ever sat through his The Bathroom Wall CD? I've heard better jokes from dying Ethiopian children.

Plus they don't ruin their sketches by laughing in the middle of them.

Reader Comments

Bobby "Grievous Angels" Cuff
hey mark
you're right!...jimmy fallon blows!...what a waste of the roots and my time.

Add your thoughts?

Onoffon - Matador 2004
Rating = 5

Ha ha! WHEE! Let me tell you about a GOOD old time I had last night!

Drinking vodka always sounds like a good idea, so away I went as the R-rated film Games Girls Play made its titillating way across my computer monitor. Hours later, we were at the local Arriba Arriba Mexican Restaurant enjoying some Paella Crepe and Salmom when suddenly the mixture of alcohol, unemployment and unpaid back wages sloshed my brain into an unrecognizable state of despair and self-pity. As usual, out came the suicidal threats. Oh! how the wife does love those drunken suicidal threats. So her three sheets to the wind RAGE rose, and some mean-spirited yelling at me occurred. As we left the restaurant, I hailed the cab, let her in first, then threw in my keys and wallet, closed the door, and walked off towards the East River to drown my sorrows in waves of Death. Next thing you know, she's chasing after me and some nicer things were said and she convinced me to come home with her and everything was just dandy, UNTIL......

When we arrived at our homeside destination, the taxi driver requested his payment, as they do. I slurred to wife, "You have my wallet." She screamed back, "NO I DON'T!" Me: "You lost my wallet?" HER: "YOU DIDN'T GIVE IT TO ME!" Me: "I threw it right next to the keys!" Her: "I DIDN'T SEE IT!" Me: (*gets out of the car; walks off towards the East River to drown my breathing in waves of water*). Her (to cabbie): "THANKS ASSHOLE! YOU JUST KILLED MY HUSBAND!"

Next thing you know, nobody's chasing after me and I'm just a few yards from the East River when I realize, "Holy Christ it's cold out here." It was like 2 degrees and I wasn't wearing my scarf. I guess the gusty winds of time (and wind) served to sober me up a bit because suddenly the idea of plunging my already cold body into an even colder body (of water) seemed like a flagrantly foul idea. So I walked home, humiliated and chilly.

But wait! There's much much more! I finally got home to my apartment building, rang the bell, got buzzed in by the wife and - because I felt so stupid - sat at the bottom of the five-flight stairway to my aptment for about five minutes. Finally I worked up the whatever to face the piper, trudged upstairs, walked in to the chipper sounds of my wife drunkenly saying, "I'm so glad you're home!" And HERE'S where a bit of common sense on my part would've saved me a whole lotta achin'.

I began yelling at her for losing my wallet. Next thing you know, she's BEATING THE HELL OUT OF ME and screaming that I'm not a man and she doesn't want to be married to me anymore. These are always great experiences for a drunken husband so I of course felt like even more of a failure and cried even more. Finally I got sick of her angry abuse, slapped her hard across the face, held her down and told her I was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore. Then I went in the other room and cancelled my credit and debit card. Poor Henry The Dog was so frightened by the whole experience, he kept running up and down the stairs all nervously. When I finally went to bed, he snuggled up to me though, like a good boy. Granted, he had terrible gas all night, but come on it's the thought.

Morning came and the wife was still pissed at me. She didn't finally warm up until I told her that I don't want to drink anymore. Then I looked in the mirror and saw that she'd given me a huge red bruise on my right eyelid, which seemed to support my decision. Alcohol and unemployment just aren't mixing for me this time. If I ever get another job, I'll start drinking again but for now it hardly seems worth the risk of ending my marriage!

And wouldn't you know it: the cabbie turned my wallet in to a Bronx police precinct! All the money was apparently still in there too, although the Bronx precinct where I picked up the wallet informed me that I'd have to pick up the money at a DIFFERENT precinct next week. Not sure what that bit of red tape was all about but whatever.

The bottom line is that marriages can be difficult because life can be difficult. She can't understand how I could let myself get $9,000 in the hole with my boss, but quite frankly I only found out about it by ACCIDENT and at that point she'd owed me $13,500!

I actually talked to my ex-boss today, btw. She says that I have one check coming in the mail this week, and then a final check from Payroll coming at the end of the month. I also had a consultation with a lawyer today, just in case she once again doesn't come through. I'll keep you posted!

This album stinks.


After a 6,000-year break resulting from Roger Miller's broken ears, Mission of Burma reunited with Shellac's Bob Weston taking the role of "guy who records a vocal and then plays it back at a different speed for no reason." The mix is very tough and strong with a warm reverbed guitar tone replacing the scratchiness of old, but Miller's voice is still weak, Conley doesn't sound like Mick Jones anymore, and the two together create some of the most godawful vocal harmonies ever released. Slightly off-key with one voice too high, terrible vocal performances like "Falling," "What We Really Were" and "Fake Blood" can't help but make you wonder if Miller's ears are even more damaged than he thought.

Furthermore, the experimental side of the band has taken so far a back seat that it might as well be in the trunk. Most of this is just basic guitar rock -- alternately punky, funky, indie, strummy, anthemic and emotional. A few suitably creative ideas stand out from the pack; the three-chord harmonics riff of Prescott's "The Enthusiast," alarmingly eerie cowpunk of Conley's "Nicotine Bomb" and dark'n'speedy two-note lick of Miller's "Playland" are particularly sharp. But the other highlights are just everyday rock songs that happen to hit the right melodic buttons. For example, as much I enjoy "Dirt," it could've just as easily been a Tom Petty song without his fans lashing an eyebat!

Onoffon does have its moments -- just fewer of them than ever before or since. Too many songs are mired in rotten vocals and bad decisions. Miller's Tuff-Funk-Rockers "Wounded World" and "Fever Moon" may in fact be the worst songs the band has ever recorded -- quite a feat for the guys who did "Learn How"! And did they honestly not notice that the first and fifth songs on here use the same exact chord sequence? (The first is faster, and therefore better).

There was originally a great ending here, but it was so great I couldn't bear the thought of somebody stealing it so I removed it from the Internet.

Reader Comments

Their worst album. Around this time, Conley formed a new group called consonant (no capitalization) who played nice indie rock songs with an occasional touch of alt-country. Some of that style shows up here ("Nicotine Bomb", "What We Really Were") to help make it feel less like a real Burma album. "Prepared" is beautiful though. Weirdly, Peter Prescott became the best songwriter in the group - at least, the best writer of Mission of Burma songs. "The Enthusiast" and "Fake Blood" kick the ass of most anything Roger came up with for this. I think the backup singer on "Falling" is actually a speed-manipulated woman - couldn't be sure. It sounds enough like Conley. I like the song anyway. 6.

Jesus Mark, I usually enjoy your little personal asides because they give a glimpse of the man behind the website, but don't you think that last one might've been a bit too personal to broadcast on the internet for anyone and everyone to see?

Ok so i haven't heard this album, but i just wanted to say, wow: it takes some balls to be as personal and honest as you are on your website, Mark. I don't think i could put myself out there like that.

Please Mark, take care. The "Onoffon" review was a bit concerning... I really hope things pick up soon!

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Snapshot - Matador 2004
Rating = 8

This downloadable live album, supposedly recorded in front of a small audience at Boston's Q Division Studios for broadcast on WFNX, finds the reconfigured Mission Of Burma revisiting their entire career, including two songs from Vs. and Horrible Truth, one each from Signals, Calls & Marches, Onoffon and their first single, and a cover of The Wipers' "Youth Of America" (previously covered by The Melvins and Kim Wilde).

(Okay, not really Kim Wilde. But didn't I puzzle you for a second? That's the nature of my game!)

The song list is inspired ("Tremelo"! "Mica"!? "Max Ernst"!?!), but does nothing to change my previous assertions that (a) Onoffon kinda blows and (b) "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" really blows. In my special fantasy, they'd actually planned to play "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" instead, but Bob Weston pulled a boner and just wrote "That's...." on the set list, overwhelming the other guys' minds with the variant possibilities (e.g. Frank Sinatra's "That's Life," Alka-Seltzer's "That's A Spicy Meatball," ABC's "That's My Mama").

The mix is great -- very loud and solid -- and if you find fault with driving anthems like "Red" and "Dirt," then stop listening to King Crimson and The Stooges and grab yourself a Snapshot of Mission Of Burma at their very 2004est!

Also, did you hear that Tom Hazelmyer fell into a MONTH-LONG coma earlier this year!? That's insane! Thank goodness he came out of it okay. The singer for Anal Cunt fell into a coma some years back too, but that's because God hates him.

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The Obliterati - Matador 2006
Rating = 7

Because it "OBLITERATes" the memory of that rotten last album, The Mission UK decided to name their third studio album The Knobshitturdtwatpee.

Wow, there's apparently an offensive word to rhyme with every syllable in the world! Here, let's try it.

Abraham Lincoln? Yeah, more like LabeBraClam PinkOne!

Mother Teresa Saving A Hungry Child? Yeah, more like SlutCur FurJizza ShavedDing (*orgasm noise*) Cunt Defiled!

Well then, that's plenty of that. Let's move on to Mission of Burma's tough hard rock album The Obliterati. Though the least diverse and experimental work of their career, the album features strong hooks both heart-wrenching and fist-pumping, as well as a thick, highly pleasing Wall Of Guitars sound. To the benefit of all, they've mostly given up on vocal harmonizing, and somebody in the band has purchased a brand new digital effects machine, from which they pull some entertaining 'ultra-tremelo,' 'decay' and 'stereo delay' guitar tones.

I have now napped through this album on two different occasions, and simply must give it a 'fave rave' for being a heck of a nice Nap Record. The songs are like perfectly formed bricks of well-produced guitar chords, allowing the napper to keep one ear open to the pleasingly menacing sound while allowing his worn-out brain a chance to recuperate from a hard day of looking for jobs on the Internet. Plus there's a good chance he'll be mostly asleep by the time the weaker second half rolls around.

This isn't the sort of record that invites a song-by-song review. It is simply a collection of confident guitar-driven rock songs. Depending on your tastes, you will like some of the melodies and not others. Really the closest they come to experimentation here are the super-fun pull-off riffer "Donna Sumeria," hilariously sung slop-bass AmRep rocker "Careening With Convication," and trying-too-hard giggle pastiche "Nancy Reagan's Head," which might've brought a chuckle back in '82 but seems as astonishingly out-of-touch in '06 as President Reagan's terrible trickle-down economic policy did in '07. Ronald Reagan, you're fucked up!

By the way, if I ever manage to get the vocal hooks "You've got me dead to rights - I'm a liar," "A thousand and one, a thousand and one pleasant dreams" and/or "Is this where I'm supposed to cry?" out of my head, it won't be the fault of radiation poisoning!

One final comment: when you entitle a song "Good, But Not Great," you're saving me a lot of time so keep doing that.

Reader Comments

The REAL comeback. These guys just know what the fuck they're doing in 2006. "Good, Not Great" is both great and good. "13" and "The Mute Speaks Out" are their most mesmerizing melodies yet. Some of these Conley songs sound too much like consonant outtakes, but other than that the thing is solid as hell. This band is fantastic and has been one of my favorites for years. I'm glad you reviewed them and even more glad you're not as in love with them as I am. Because that makes for some boring criticism. See: these comments.

and this gets 8.

escepticojr@hotmail.com (Guillermo)
Even in your darkest moments you still got it Mark.

1) I have never ever been bothered by Miller's voice. He sounded like a clone of Bob Mould at times but that's all. You know who always bothered me? The drummer. He seemed to play at his own pace letting the rest of the band followed his herky-jerky approach to every goddamned rhythm. For example "outlaw" is like he's on caffeine or is getting burned by hot coffee near the drumset, I don't know.

2) I've always love the fact that Roger Miller played the guitar using NO DISTORTION at all (or maybe some gain I don't know) but still makes you rock out.

3) About the new lo-fi thing (No age, Times new viking) I can only agree about that. What's wrong with them? I love No age, but seriously why the nostalgia man? move on! Robert Pollard recorded all his tracks at home at the beginning of Guided by voices in the 90's, he was a school teacher and some of his friends helped him to record and compose. After he got a deal with Matador (I think) he started re-recording in a studio some of his old lo-fi songs. That makes sense, doesn't it?

4) Man, you really freaked me out with the review of Onoffon. I'm also unemployed and it sucks sooo much. In my case at least I got the money from my old employer... I just wish you the best and somehow someway things are gonna get better man. Send you all my love from South America. Chin up!

daniel.lawrence.tapia@gmail.com (The Chameleon)
Hey Mark,

Your Mission of Burma reviews kicked ass. They're one of those bands I think I should enjoy a lot more than I do, but they're so...odd it's hard to fully digest what they have to offer. Parenthetically, did you ever read their story in that Our Band Can Be Your Life book? It's by and far the most boring story of all of them. I've seen them live a few times and one of those experiences ranked upon the best live experiences; the other one involved Roger Miller nearly knocking his microphone stand on me for the whole show (no good). I can't deny they write some amazing music; I even have all their records, but rarely have any urge to listen to them. They're great but sorta remind me of Sonic Youth - on record they rarely seem to just balls-out rock; it always feels constrained by "artistic" craptation. Sonic Youth is more guilty of this, but I don't like them so who cares?

Anyway, keep on kicking ass and making us all laugh on Red Eye. I'm still in debt to you and your record review site and read it often. Say hi to Henry the Dog for me.

A mildly disappointing but solid album; 1001 Pleasant Dreams is a stone cold classic. I just read something saying they're going to try to record another album and then call it quits due to getting too old to play Burma material.

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The Sound The Speed The Light - Matador 2009
Rating = 5


(Heh heh, yeah that was a good one)

Through a combination of lackluster songwriting, weak singing, listless pacing, heavy-handed drumming and terrible mixing, Mission Of Burma has herein created a CD that is no fun at all to listen to. In fact, here are just a few things that are more fun than listening to this CD:

Riding the roaring rapids
Visiting a delightful amusement park
Reading a book upside-down
Making love to a beautiful woman (or man, if you're a woman or homosexual)
Designing a homemade Ramones shirt, but with the name "Bono" where "Dee Dee" should be
Putting on a shoe, then taking it off, turning it inside out, and putting it back on
Looking at a pair of binoculars through a telescope
Studying proctology in order to get closer to Paul Simon
Having a picnic at the beach with good food and great friends
Crapping your pants at the beginning of a long car trip
Going to church and saying in a sing-song voice "Buuuullll-shit!" at random intervals
Referring to 'pigeons' as 'penguins'
Bidding $1 million on something on ebay, then cancelling your bid with four seconds left because you 'had meant to bid a penny.'

Yes, the world offers many fun and factual divertisements for those unafraid to dodge the korn, get staind and take their nickelback!

Speaking of shitty bands, what's with this album? The songs aren't particularly energetic or interesting, and then you've got Peter Prescott playing the most ridiculously hamfisted clumpity-dumpity drumlines in the world, and the usually reliable Bob Weston mixing it so the drums are OUT FRONT! So every song feels like an overthought morass of sluglike clumpity-dumpity club-footed dragginess! Can't this fucking guy just play a straightforward backbeat every once in a while? It's really hard to enjoy the simple pleasures of a guitar melody when it's thudded into the ground by an unsubtle, unnecessary and uncalled for pile of BLUP-A-DUP-A-DUP-DUP rhythmic showiness.

Their voices are getting even less listenable too. I love gay people, but I'm pretty sure even they would agree that Clint Conley sounds like a flaming fey faggotass girl at this point. And I've no clue why a man as intelligent as Roger Miller would purposely make himself sound like such a shouty oaf every time out, but hey we can't all be good singers. (which is why most of us DON'T CHOOSE TO BE SINGERS FOR A LIVING).

Worst and warmost, the songs themselves pale terribly in comparison to MoB's classic material. Their legendary experimentation is nowhere to be found (unless you count the annoyingly unorthodox drumming), and their few attempts at anthem-writing sound forced, underwritten and... honestly, kinda humiliating. Lead track "1, 2, 3, Partyy!" for example, not only features such cringe-inducing lyrics as "Drink only when drunken to," but is so obviously a simplified ripoff of Syndicate Of Sound's "Little Girl" that Conley directly quotes that song in his final verse. His other anthemic contribution ("SSL 83") is, if anything, even WORSE -- just a bunch of ringing emptiness and overexcited dicking around. Unfortunately, Prescott and Miller aren't exactly batting .300 either, mostly just churning out repetitive two-note riffs or punk rock chord sequences played at half-speed.

Four of the twelve songs do appear to be striving for some actual emotion or mood though. Granted, even these are nearly buried under Prescott's ham-handed clubbing, but "After The Rain," "Feed," "Comes Undone" and "Slow Faucet" stand out from the pack because - unlike the failed anthems and do nothing/go nowhere bores surrounding them - they're both melodic and evocative. With surprisingly strong harmony vocals and even in one instance a PIANO (!), these songs may not break any new artistic ground, but they at least succeed in being pretty, delicate, heartfelt, emotional, dark, simmering and/or brooding -- as opposed to just 'there'.

Now isn't it about time that Mission Of Burma recorded a Christmas album? Here, I've got some good album titles ready:

Holiday Fight Song 7"
Jingles, Bells And Marches EP
The Ho!Ho!Ho!rrible Truth About Santa
Peking Winter
Onoffon (Blink The Christmas Tree Lights)
The Oblitereindeer
The Frosty The Snow The Man

Reader Comments

Kevin Chanel
Growing on me. At first I thought "feh!", but now I'm hooked on some of these tunes. Production is crap though. Just like a Shellac album. Holiday suggestions are genius! Coffee thru the nose comedy.

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