By: Eric Greenwood
Seeing Mission of Burma last year was truly one of the most exciting concerts of my life. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. I'd long since given up the idea that a band I was too young to have experienced in its heyday would ever tour again. And it was nowhere near the sad spectacle for which clichéd rock and roll reunions have become known. In fact, the band sounded ferocious and utterly vital in its heavily lauded return. Of course, it didn't hurt that Shellac's Bob Weston was manning the soundboard and manipulating the tape loops that night (for original tape operator Martin Swope). Bassist Clint Conley even commented that the last time the band played Atlanta (two decades past) only 20 people showed up. This show was packed out the door. As with many legends, Mission of Burma is more popular in death than it was in life, though, few actually return from the dead in order to taste the sweetness.
Riding the wave of word of mouth and good press, Mission of Burma set out to record its first album in over two decades without a hint of trepidation. OnOffOn finds the band exactly where it left off. Literally. It's freakish that after 22 years apart (and a severe case of tinnitus for Roger Miller to boot), the band could recapture much less maintain the same level of intensity that made its name. And even more unbelievable is the fact that the band had the balls to expand its sonic palette at the risk of sounding like a bunch of out of touch fogies.
There are hints of maturity and a mellowing out of sorts in certain musical and vocal passages, but that's to be expected. If there were no evolution, this would be a pointless exercise. However, the band's collective lyrical disdain for all that is disingenuous is still relentless and fierce. "The Setup", "The Enthusiast", and "Nicotine Bomb" all reaffirm Mission of Burma's jagged rhythmic aesthetic, while "Wounded World" and "Into The Fire" reveal progressive guitar interplay on a level that expands well beyond the band's original two-dimensional course. OnOffOn is the aural resurrection of a band that still matters.