Record Review - 1 June 10 2004

The progenitor of domestic post-punk, Mission of Burma is among the most venerable names in American underground music. The group’s jarring and jittery guitar assaults, rhythmic dexterity and avant-garde lyrics signified the transition of punk rock into an artful next level until the band called it quits in 1983. Twenty years later, Burma returns with ONoffON, a new full-length that impresses with timeless anthems for stylish insurrection, picking up right where the group left off.

The two decades book-ended by Burma’s demise and resurrection have done little to hamper the group’s angular dissonance. Clint Conley (bass, vocals), Roger Miller (guitar, vocals, keys) and Peter Prescott (percussion) have long contributed their own distinctive elements to the finished product — time spent apart has only strengthened their respective temperaments. The Miller-written opener, “The Setup,” is classic Burma, with its cresting guitar swells and squiggling feedback streaming over a rumbling rhythm section. The swelling pop purity of Conley’s “Dirt” and the country chug of “Nicotine Bomb” are countered by the pulsating mania of Prescott’s “The Enthusiast.”

The addition of Shellac bassist Bob Weston as tape manipulator, filling in the hollow spots with understated clatter, gives the recording a crisp sheen. ONoffON shows Mission of Burma is as charged and challenging today as it ever was. All it needed was a flip of the switch.