Review Of “Unsound” By Mission of Burma


Artist: Mission of Burma
Title: Unsound
Record Label: Fire
Rating: 7.5

Mission of Burma brings a serious legacy to this record, having existed for over 30 years in various forms. This latest iteration of the band’s lineup, which has included Shellac’s Bob Weston for the past few years, does little to dampen their rep for reliably odd andintense rock music. They sound as biting as ever, and while the production is a little rumblier than listeners may expect from their past records, it manages to work.

The dual vocal lines that project a melody over guitar noise and precise bass chugs in “Semi-Pseudo-Sort-Of-Plan” lay out a sort-of-plan for the record ahead: this is noisy stuff, with Clint Conley’s bass serving as a guideline under the guitar noise and Weston’s tape manipulations. I would say that the punishingly strummed “Second Television” evokes the aggression of a younger, but as far as I’ve seen, aggression and anger seem to accelerate with old age, and that’s definitely the case for Mission of Burma.

The hooks of their best material (which means most of the tracks on Signals, Calls, and Marches in my book) aren’t paralleled on Unsound, but perhaps that’s part of the excitement of this record: it’s sloppier and, though it pains me to use this term, more “lo-fi” than their earlier work, which strangely contradicts the arcs of most aging band.Isn’t the multi-decade voyage supposed to end in polish and artistic obsolescence? The production of Unsound may be a slightly too-strong buck against this trend—perhaps the title is a clue—but there’s no doubt that a vital band wrote and played the songs on this record. They might sound better live, though, even if you do fear for the aging hearts delivering this material from the stage.

-Nathan Ripley

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