Monday, April 02, 2012

New Mission of Burma song on Pitchfork

Mission of Burma is a band I revere, and their album Vs. is one of those top-10 desert island discs for me, an utter masterpiece of rock that towers above the recorded output of both their peers and devotees. I might even place it above Zen Arcade and Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat on the cultural-treasures-of-punk list; from the catalogues of Wire and the Gang of Four to Sonic Youth and Nomeansno, there are a lot of great albums on the artful and intense end of the rock spectrum, but none live up to the brilliance of Vs, in terms of individual songs or breadth of vision. I mean, click here, here, here and here, if you're not sure what I mean. I am very, very happy that the band have reactivated and are recording and touring; I am looking forward to buying their new album, Unsound, as soon as it hits the shelves this summer; I count it as a great privilege that I have seen them twice now, and hope I have the good fortune to see them a third time. Or a fourth. The only thing that would make me happier than to see Mission of Burma again rockwise would be if the Volcano Suns opened for them (or if Rocket From the Tombs came back to town and brought Cheetah Chrome - presently attempting to retire from touring - with them).

That said, to be somewhat painfully honest, I haven't loved any of MoB's new LPs. All have great moments, and I've listened to each on several occasions, hoping they will grow on me, but on each album there are songs that seem to just not quite work, or not work equally well all the way through; there will be PARTS that are great, but then parts that AREN'T so great, that sort of throw me for a loop as I try to figure out whether I'm just listening wrong.  Even the best songs don't seem to quite rank with "The Ballad of Johnny Burma" - there's an absence of ferocity, you know? And maybe a fear of simplicity - the new songs have an ambitiousness to them that would be great if it didn't result in songs that tend to elude me, leave me scratchin' my head wondering "why the hell did they do THAT?" I'm about as willing to be challenged as a rock listener can get, and fully admit that it's possible that I just haven't "gotten" their new stuff yet but it seems like if the band in their initial incarnation consistently scored ten out of ten for songwriting, the new Mission of Burma (sorry, guys!) - perhaps with the exception of Peter Prescott's excellent "The Enthusiast" - mostly seems to settle in around 8.5.

That said, there's something sexy and tough and catchy about the new tune, "Dust Devil," that might actually get it almost up to 9 (except I'm not wild about the chorus, the mere repetition of "dust devil" - it's just not as GREAT as the rest of it, y'know? That's the sorta thing I'm talkin' about, here). Still, check this stuff out - and note: the Pitchfork player cranks this out LOUD, so be prepared to adjust the volume on your computer...

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