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Vs


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Answering the Signals, 5 May 2007
This review is from: Vs (Audio CD)
Mission of Burma's output (during their original life-span anyway...) amounts to two singles, a live album, and this, their only full length album. However, they can still lay claim to having profoundly influenced the development of American underground music. By applying an avant-garde approach to punk, they elevated the form above what was considered acceptable and opened up a world of possibilities to everyone who was listening.

Their early work (collected on the compilation, "Signals, Calls and Marches") is much more streamlined by comparison, almost 'pop' like in it's construction. Songs like "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" and "Academy Fight Song" have a sweeping, anthemic feel to them, coupling a powerful sense of melody with an abstract and angular experimentalism. But this does not prepare the listener for the onslaught of "Vs", noise, rhythm and melody, meeting each other head on and combining to make an earth-shattering SOUND!

Opening track 'Secrets' erupts at the listener, almost falling apart on itself under the weight of Martin Swope's tape experiments. On the previous releases, Swope was a ghostlike figure, adding the odd percussive touch, contributing to the visuals and making the occasional sonic manipulation. On "Vs" he is all over the place, freeing Mission of Burma from the pressures of being 'just a band' and allowing them to explore all sorts of uncharted territory. Roger Miller's guitar coveys an urgency that had seldom been heard in American underground music, slashing through the mix and adding texture to the melodic basslines of Clint Conley.

In essence the relationship between Clint Conley and Roger Miller defines the band, with Conley's melodic contributions jarring with Miller's angular texture to tremendous effect. Whereas on previous releases Conley's songs were more straightforwardly melodic, and Miller's were more abstract and difficult to grasp, on "Vs" the two styles mesh together and form a whole. It could be argued that certain songs on "Signals, Calls and Marches" are more memorable than anything found here, but this is truly where the sound of Mission of Burma crystallises, a burning mixture of rough and smooth, soft and hard.

The criticism that must be levelled at the album is that, due to the sheer power of the material and exploratory nature of it, the listener can often become slightly over-whelmed, being as it is a particularly draining album. There is an almost relentless drive to the music, pushing forward and forward, almost as if a battle is being fought within it's confines, like the musicians can barely control the noise they are making.

And ultimately, they lost that battle. Roger Miller succumbed to tinnitus and Conley became dis-satisfied with the music industry and the band split up, leaving behind a rather good but misunderstood live album, "The Horrible Truth About Burma". Further riches lay ahead, but this is really where the story starts for American Indie rock.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Influential classic of early eighties post punk, 18 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Vs (Audio CD)
Burma's only full length studio LP is an absolute essential for fans of the early eighties post punk scene. Brim full with inventive guitar work and tape loops, Vs. charts a path from the inspiration of Pere Ubu to influence over bands like Yo La Tengo et al. The songs herein are delivered with vigour and an inquisitive touch, leaving the listener in expectation at what might happen next. Melodies are not hostage even on the most frantic of cuts. The bands you love, love this! A classic.
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