Mission of Burma The Sound the Speed the Light Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A disappointment compared to recent-past LPs, but evidently fun to make.

Andrzej Lukowski 2009

These days it feels somewhat passé to draw attention to the fact that a band formerly active in the post-punk era is back with us now. Of course they are. It’s what they’re all doing. There was probably a big planning meeting sometime around 1983.

Nonetheless, Boston’s Mission of Burma deserve special mention as the only reformees whose latter incarnation may actually prove the better one. Which is saying a lot, and there’s no denying the original line-up is the more influential, particularly the staggering early tracks Academy Fight Song and That’s When I Reach for My Revolver. But first time around the band only managed the one album (1982’s Vs) before heading their separate ways.

By contrast, The Sound the Speed the Light is the third knocked out by MOB since they reunited in 2002, following on from 2004’s excellent ONoffON, and 2006’s brutal, audacious career highlight The Obliterati. By those admittedly elevated standards, this latest set must be deemed a small disappointment, albeit one that’s still better than the entire 00s output of every other reformed post-punk crew combined.

Where focus, concision and experimentation have oft been the band’s hallmark, The Sound the Speed the Light flirts with being a sloppy, good times gee-tar rekkid, and must certainly account for a release of some kind for axe-wielding frontman Roger Miller. They’re still weird, mind – opener 1, 2, 3, Partyy! features the title phrase intoned at a snail’s pace, backing up a froth-mouthed torrent of surreal drinking tips; the outstanding Possession is, in essence, one very strange, four-minute long guitar solo, hissing, spitting and scratching like some dangerous, deranged feline, sunny choruses and some truly terrifying backing vocals occasionally smacking you out of nowhere.

Yet by MOB’s very elevated standards, there’s a certain meat and potatoes quality to the likes of Blunder and So F*** It, scorchingly heavy workouts that nonetheless don’t really go out of their way to do anything too extraordinary. But these are hugely relative criticisms: really the worst charge you can level is that The Sound the Speed the Light sounds like it was fun to make.

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