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Vs Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered
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This is one of the greatest statements of the early days of American punk rock. Boston-based Mission of Burma created an intense, somewhat claustrophobic sound that was based neither on speed nor brevity. They bash and flail on their instruments, and the music is dense (including early tape manipulations), but the songs are intelligent and captivating. "Secrets" unfolds into directed chaos with an anthemic feel; "Trem Two" also has a great sense of dynamics. Several band members contribute songs, which also keeps the album engaging. Released in 1982 but still fresh. --Robert Gordon
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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.Read more ›
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I call Mission of Burma a punk band, but if it was released today, it would problably just be labeled as indie rock. You are not going to mistake this album for the Dead Kennedys or even the Sex Pistols for that matter. But Vs. is often just as intense and visceral as any album by those punk bands. One of the biggest differences is the instrumentation. Most of their songs are mid tempo, and have dense layers of jangly guitar lines. Infact, some of their songs don't sound all too different from REM's instrumentation. However, what makes this album so gripping is it's ability to invoke feelings of nervousness, paranoia, and great urgency. I think the only band that I can compare Mission of Burma to is Gang of Four. There are 16 tracks on this album, and every song is performed with incredible conviction. My personal faves are "Secrets", "New Nails", "Weatherbox" and "Fun World".
Long story short, if you like indie rock or punk rock, it doesn't get much better than Vs. Also, I strongly recommend checking out the Signals Calls, and Marches EP. (It contains the fantastic "academy fight song" as well as "That's when I reach for my revolver.")
The Wire-like opener "Secrets" drones on the same two speedy chords for about a minute & a half before a sloppy tape-looped "drum solo" comes in, after which all 3 vocalists/instrumentalists in the band take turns screaming, as the song officially starts. Midtempo "Trem Two" is even dronier, with the robotic descending guitar line sounding more like a distorted synth and a high-pitched noise looping on every 2nd & 4th beat. Probably the closest thing this band's ever done to a "dance" number. "Dead Pool" is deathly slow & numbing; Not depressing, mind you, just terribly bleak. Clint Conley's vocals in particular sound like a mortally wounded soul wishing itself out of exsistence. "Weatherbox" features a mesmerizing guitar noise/tape loop solo & one of Clint's best ever basslines. "Einstein's Day" is a sweeping epic recalling the instrumental "All World Cowboy Romance" from their first ep; but with an even greater sense of desperate urgency. And "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" ends the album(and effectively, the band's recording career) with a crash, boom, bang, go! Undoubtably the catchiest song of them all.
As great as the album tracks are though, the 4 outtakes pasted on as "bonus tracks" at the end are actually some of the best they ever did. "Forget" is an upbeat, happy(??!?!) number with a beautiful melody & haunting lyrics, predating all of today's "emo/nu-pop-punk" crap by at least a couple of decades. "OK/No Way" manages to fit a confusing time signature into a song that smashes & flails chaotically. "Laugh The World Away" is just plain weird, unlike anything else they'd ever done, yet fitting right in there somehow. And "Progress" is one of Clint's most poignant, heartbreaking laments about the uselessness of modern society.
It didn't get any better than this...not in 1982(the year I was born), anyway. Check out everything this band's ever done and also Clint's new band Consonant, too. For it is the best way I can think of to escape from the vacuous vapidity of today's shallow, target-demographic radio pop.
There was a chemistry in the band which was electrifying to the folks that knew MOB. Outsiders said that MOB sounded like a bunch of yelling and screaming, but insiders knew. Roger Miller's guitar style was a union of Hendrix psychedlica and no/new wave guitarists like Andy Gill (Gang of Four) and Arto Lindsay (Contortions). Clint Conley's frenetic bass lines underpinned the mad shreiking feedback of Roger's guitar. Peter Prescott's powerful drumming was the focal point that punctuated the call and response style of vocals. The final touch was Martin Swope at the controls adding tape loops and "found" sounds.
This studio album is a typical set that MOB would play live in 1980-81. None of the band's live power is diminished on this studio set. It appears that the band went into the studio and did a live take of all of their concert songs. At the time, "Vs." was released, MOB appeared to be on the thereshold of a national breakthrough. Major labels were looking at the band and, REM was talking about recording a version of MOB's "Academy Fight Song". This all fell apart when Roger Miller fell a victim of tinnitus, an ear condition that many musician fall prey to. Tinnitus comes about from exposure to loud noise for a long period of time. Miller's ears constantly rang from the volume level that MOB had played at for so many years. The band broke up after a monster concert at the Statler Hotel ballroom in Boston, in 1982. Miller had to play that concert with a pair of rifle range headphones on his ears to alleviate the ringing in his ears. Miller continues to play keyboards and has released a number of minimalist CDs with avant garde stylings. Clint Connley has given up music. Peter Prescott is still drumming and involved with production work on music. Martin Swope is somewhere in Hawaii doing things unknown to me. MOB, of course, will live on....