Review Summary: Mission of Burma comes back with a solid effort. Different than Vs. or Signals, Calls and Marches, but a must listen for anyone looking to expand their tastes.
A very fitting album title, ONoffON describes Mission of Burma's journey over the past 25 years. After forming in 1979, the band was able to release only one full-length studio recording before disbanding in 1984. Their violent and loud live shows probably caused frontman Roger Miller's tinnitus, a condition in which his ears rang constantly, and the band was forced on hiatus. In the twenty years following, some people forgot about Mission of Burma; heck, not many knew of them in the first place. But while the band was off, they spent time honing their material, and were able to come roaring back ON in 2004. And in capital letters.
Mission of Burma's diverse styles have been an influence to many popular bands, including Nirvana, Sonic Youth, the Pixies, Yo La Tengo, R.E.M, and even Moby. With ONoffON, they show more why they played role models to these bands, playing in a creative fashion: with guitar sounds ranging from as raw as Rocky's breakfast to as soft as Moby's image.
Overall, this is a very good album. The band explores subjects ranging from lost love, to world destruction, to manipulation by corporate powers, and stumble with but a few dull moments in between. While many of the lyrics are hard to decipher, they always go well with the music. Conley, Miller, and Prescott all sing on this album, and the mixture of their voices is refreshing: presenting a different type of imagery with each. Weston proves that like former band member Martin Swope, he is a master at using tape loops to provide a unique sound to the bands songs.
With Hunt Again, the band proclaims its return in a quick out-bursty piece. It echoes reminders of the hunter in Fun World, one of the bands older songs, but brings a new pace, preparing the listener for a new experience in the songs to follow.
One of the album's softer songs, Falling, provides a beautiful description of a man in an out-of-body experience, as he comes to terms with the world and realizes its beauty and the frailty of life. There are beautiful background vocals as the song progresses, reflecting the man's personal struggles and his acceptance of death and the ravages of time. This is a very chilling, but uplifting track.
On Prepared, a personal favorite track of mine, the voice is of a depressed storyteller, telling the tale of a love gone wrong. The soft looming style creates one of few ambient atmospheres on this CD, and there is even a string section to back up the feeling. As the song reaches its climax, the voice echoes a haunting warning about worthless love, and the music fades out.
In one of the better transitions I've heard, the band mixes it up and keeps you on your feet with a powerful guitar riff to start the next song: Wounded World. One of the more socially critical songs on the album, Wounded World tells of society's downfall due to the greed and backhandedness of men. A fast, fun tempo makes this a song to enjoy yelling along with, and it opens up the second half of the album very nicely.
The second half of the CD is a bit more uniform, but provides some good songs along the way to the finish in Fever Moon and Nicotine Bomb. The album culminates with its best track, Absent Mind, which is not a stand-out song at first, but grows on the listener with catchy guitar parts and strong deliveries from the lyrics. The song ends with the guitar breaking down and non-sensical conversations going on in the background, a fitting finish for a quality album.
Plenty of good songs
Altering of singing styles
Some dull moments
Difficult to comprehend lyrics
Mission of Burma is:
Roger Miller-guitar, vocals
Clint Conley-bass, vocals
Peter Prescott-drums, vocals
Bob Weston-tape manipulator, looper