11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Shortest possible description: Explosively wonderful.
The difference between this and the previous "new era" release, OnOffOn, is virtually night-and-day. Whereas OnOffOn seemed often willfully difficult to listen to, more of a "fans-only" release, The Obliterati is *gloriously* listenable, and at NO compromise to the values or inventiveness that make Burma great. If one has never heard Burma before, THIS is the one to start with. (And then, once "warmed up," that same new listener should dive into the deep end of their original tour de force, Vs.)
I'm most struck by how TUNEFUL this is, often almost sweet-sounding, but without being as catchy or hook-laden as Signals, Calls & Marches (or the Gun to a Head collection). But make no mistake, Burma's wonderful racket and cacophony are live and well here. It's tuneful as a borderline condition, not an overriding condition, and doesn't cost any of Burma's tendency to thwart your expectations. ("1001 Pleasant Dreams" might sum up their jangle of dissonant momentum best for a new listener - melodically enchanting while defying strict harmony, creating a ringing echo around them as they barrel forward.)
Bob Weston mixed this one, and his sonic judgement sounds nearly impeccable - Burma's sound modulated for the 21st Century, more "feet-firmly-planted" than OnOffOn. "Good, Not Great" is a *fantastic* example of pulling this off (and I wish it was twice as long). "Man in Decline" and "Careening with Conviction" similarly bring Burma's sonic adventurism "up to date" without losing any by translation. Their original sound never dated badly to begin with (and Vs. not at ALL), but this album sounds truly current.
Perhaps the most perpetual strength of the record is Conley's muscularity of his bass. Is it my imagination or is he knocking himself out even harder on Miller's tracks than his own? That bass has always been the foundation of Burma's unique melodic delivery, but outdoes himself for this new album. His playing seem most evolved of the lineup, probably learned from playing so many live shows in the last couple of years. And of course his vocals remain a timeless hallmark of punk *singing* (as opposed to shouting), especially on the closing tracks of this batch.
Prescott's drumming is more EVEN than ever before, which is half-good. I miss the sublime tempo sensibility of Vs., quite a bit, but his less halting nature here keeps this record moving more briskly from beginning to end. (Vs., by comparison, tended to force the listener to pick his jaw up off the floor more often. He's less "show-stealing" here, seeming to cede more rhythmic limelight to Conley.) Thankfully, he's in full form for the album's magnificent finale, "Nancy Reagan's Head."
Miller finds many more new sounds to squeeze out of his guitar, consistently wonderfully, and yet all with the hallmark Burma sonic attack that makes no mistake which band we're listening to. (And every time Miller shines, Weston's inspired mix does as well.) His songwriting, by comparison, seems half-derived from the Burma tradition and half from his No Man phase (not to be confused with the independent band who swiped that name). His Win! Instantly! melodic croon surfaces frequently here (especially in "13"), as opposed to OnOffOn, which borrowed more (two tracks literally) from How the West Was Won. (So that's worth noting, if you can't get enough of Miller, to seek those Miller/No Man albums out - start with West, which is more "crunchy," then backtrack to Instantly, which is more smooth.)
One quality of this whole ensemble that must be noted is the tremendous LACK of ego in this band. The sound of teamwork is unusually discernable, and neither does this record suffer from any arrogance or self-importance, unusual for a "reunion act" who's risen to such acclaim as they have. Rock music as a genre would benefit from more of the humility that's evident in this band and projects audibly from this record. It's surely half the secret sauce to this material sounding so fresh and unusual.
So all told, I'd call this a five-star album (as opposed to Vs.' seven) because it seems impeccable, virtually perfect, and quite great (if not beyond-belief transcendent). Its only drawback might be a slight overall evenness, by which casual listeners will miss many of its embedded wonders, but in turn could be recommended to a new listener with a wholeheartedness I couldn't muster at all for OnOffOn. It sounds GREAT on the very first listen, and just keeps getting better.
And this will surely satisfy diehard Burma fans as not just a great new chapter, but as a sign that this band is truly back in business with new laser-focus, and lots more greatness to come.