Mission of Burma
Vs.


4.5
superb

Review

by altron2095 USER (7 Reviews)
December 4th, 2006 | 41 replies | 8,838 views


Release Date: 1982 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A landmark recording of a legendary post-punk band in their initial prime, Vs. utterly embodies the spirit of underground rock and captures a sound yet to be equaled in both intelligence and power.

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

Let’s just begin by saying that Vs. is a class-A album by a legendary and deservedly worshipped band, aptly named by Eric M. Van as the greatest band in the history of the world. However, though this, and all other Burma material, is stellar and spectacular and better than most anything else out there, it just misses perfection by an inch. It certainly represents an exciting and unique sound, wonderfully expressed by creative and unconventional songwriters at the height of their powers. But a certain few missteps place this album in the category of essential, not perfect.

Burma has a good thing going here, of course. Of their (now) three studio albums and EP, this has the best drum and guitar sound by far. It certainly represents their sound as faithfully as can be expected. When I hear Signals, Calls, and Marches, I sometimes cringe at the edge that was taken off of the guitar sound, especially in the Academy/ Max Ernst single. The guitar sounds pushed back and gagged, not as up front and wrenching as it should be at all. And the drum sound is pretty cardboard or flat at times on Signals, or murky on some of their later albums. Here, though, we find roaring and jangling guitars perfectly balanced with the band’s secret weapons: clean, skilled drumming, melodic and heavy bass, and subtle tape loops.

The subtlety of the tape loops are a real treat here, offering much appeal to careful and longtime listeners. The auditory Easter Egg hunt necessitated by Martin Swope’s tape manipulations reveals a plethora of near subliminal sounds, and some so obvious it’s hard to believe you couldn’t hear them before. For the gentle sound:, in Trem Two, a very gentle reversed hum plays on every other beat of the guitar riff. For Fun World, though, a wrenching screech sounds during the guitar line, outside enough to suggest that it is a tape manipulation and not normal instrumentation. Vocal chatter and beds of found sound adorn Dead Pool, Mica, and Learn How… the list goes on.

The playing here is assured without being needlessly virtuosic. Roger’s guitar lines are heavily rhythmic in nature when not spewing beautiful noise, meshing perfectly with Clint’s bass and Peter’s powerful but technical drumming in a rolling ball of righteous punk fury. It’s often catchy, sometimes violent, and never boring.

The opening three songs put us off on a great foot here, offering a trebly single chord attack on “Secrets” before a pseudo drum solo kicks in. “Train” is a structural wonder, driving forward in seemingly disconnected parts in seemingly random times, Prescott gluing it all together with some incredible percussion, a technically brilliant and memorable performance. “Trem Two” has a heavy eponymous trem effect, creating a unique reverberating riff that anchors a slow dirge. After arriving at a prepared piano piece, the song drifts into an understated but intense instrumental ending that hits with all the force that Conley’s powerful bass notes and Miller‘s slashing guitar can muster.

However, “New Nails”, while expanding their vocabulary with a touch of horn and expressing their radical views on the church, is a misstep, a less-than-melodic rave that seems atonal enough to be grating instead of just outré. “Learn How“, Prescott’s contribution, seems less compelling coming just before “Mica” and “Weatherbox“, which both seem more interesting in comparison. And while there are plenty of strong songs, none seem to be as downright incredible as "Academy Fight Song" or That’s When I Reach For My Revolver (even though BOTH of those songs, and Peking Spring as well, seriously need to be re-recorded in the style of this album, just putting it out there).

This shouldn’t deter anyone from buying this album. The four bonus tracks included, while perhaps lessening the impact of the sudden stop ending of the original CD version, are still essential Burma, among which are a genuine love song (“Forget”), a rollicking but jumpy punk rocker in the vein of Johnny Burma or Certain Fate (“OK/No Way”), a nearly robotic bass-line-rocking impressionist piece a la Max Ernst (“Laugh The World Away”), and the closing “Progress”, which is depressive enough to make all human history seem trite. (Though the mix is a little thin here and there on “Progress”.)

And there you have it. As stated before, just shy of a perfect ‘classic’, but there’s no reason to pass it up by any means. It rocks hard, it’s to the point when need be, and complex and subtle enough to reward the time you’ll spend with it puzzling it out.



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user ratings (174)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
The Jungler
December 4th 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, especially for a second.
I've been wanting to get into (read: listen to) these guys/guys like these guys (Wire) for a while, no success.

Tv Party
December 4th 2006



98 Comments


I've heard this album and like it a lot. I might buy it sometime soon.

Zebra
Moderator
December 4th 2006



2647 Comments


This album is great but there are some very weak tracks towards the end of the album (Forget, and Progress come to mind.) Great work on the review.

Zappa
December 4th 2006



355 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Only okay.

AlienEater
December 5th 2006



716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is good.

nirvana1989_nb
December 8th 2006



98 Comments


Mission of Burma ... i read a book callled "Our Band Could be Your Life" it really turned me onto great bands such as this.

The Jungler
December 12th 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've read/am reading that book a few times. Its great, and really makes me want to listen to people like these guys, The Minutemen and Fugazi.
I'm listening to this now

Eliminator
December 12th 2006



2067 Comments


Good album.

The Jungler
December 12th 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, this is pretty tight.
plus, the bassist is from Connecticut.

MrKite
February 19th 2007



5020 Comments


New Nails is great
I'm gonna look for that book.

joshuatree
Emeritus
April 7th 2008



3743 Comments


At first I thought this was boring, but after repeated listens I've realized how awesome this album is.

MassiveAttack
October 1st 2009



2688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

^I thought the same with Joy Division, loved them after 3 more listens. This album is immediately awesome for me because it fits the genre so perfectly.

karbidopa
October 13th 2009



2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great album!

Kiran
Emeritus
October 13th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^I thought the same with Joy Division, loved them after 3 more listens.

123

i was really underwhelmed by both at first and now love both

Digging: Spoon - They Want My Soul

porch
September 5th 2010



8452 Comments


rules

MassiveAttack
October 29th 2010



2688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this rating keeps raising and is fast becoming a post-punk favorite of mine

liledman
May 2nd 2011



3826 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great album

sportsboy
February 14th 2012



615 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

TULSA'S NOT THAT FAR

Digging: Vektroid - Color Ocean Road

Funeralopolis
March 6th 2013



11029 Comments


mission of myanmar

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

YankeeDudel
March 23rd 2013



9305 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

now thats a pretty ass album cover

Digging: Bedhead - WhatFunLifeWas



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