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Preview Mon Sep 24 2012
By Mike Bellis
Can you still call it a comeback when you might be better than ever? The kind of hard-won legacy that Boston noisemakers Mission of Burma made for themselves in the years since their early hardcore salad days is rare: As a band that was only together for about four years at the turn of the '80s and with only one album to its credit, the story went that Mission of Burma crashed before it ever really had the chance to get off the ground. But that album, the now-legendary Vs. — with help from the band's infamous ear-splitting live shows — gained near-mythic status among the independent underground scene in the decades that followed. With hype and nostalgia finally reaching a breaking point in 2002, the band reunited in with all of its original members (sans tape manipulator Martin Swope) including Roger Miller (guitar, vocals) Clint Conley (bass, vocals) and Peter Prescott (drums, vocals). And unlike other marquee post-punk reunion acts like Pixies, Pavement, or (as of yet) My Bloody Valentine, the band found enough inspiration in their reconstituted form to actually write new material. It could be said they had some unfinished business that needed a tending-to.
Mission of Burma (photo by Jesse Jarnow)
Now in the midst of one of the better second acts in rock, and with a steady stream of new records that easily eclipses the band's original material at least in terms of output, Mission of Burma returns to Chicago on the back of its new album, Unsound. Over the course of the past decade, the band has been lauded for its spectacular (not to mention age-defying) return to form. Since its first post-reunion release, 2002's ONoffON for Matador Records, the band has enlisted Shellac's Bob Weston to man the mixing boards and commandeer the band's pioneering form of live tape manipulation in place of the departed Swope. Though Weston only makes casual encore appearances with the band (most of his contributions are in-studio), Chicago scene vets will no doubt be on the lookout out when the band heads to the pristine Lincoln Hall stage this Saturday.
The first release since departing from Matador earlier this year and fifth record altogether, Unsound, continues the bands storied legacy into its fourth decade. Released on Fire Records and self-described as a "bewildering and multi-faceted" record, Unsound proves the band can still mine new ways to integrate Conley trademark hooks among Miller's familiar siege of raw and aggressive smatterings of noise. Continuing a run of well-received records in the decade since the bands reunion, Unsound shows the band pushing its own boundaries while reveling in the kind of explosive, hook-laden firepower that made Vs one of the better post-punk records ever made. And though the band might not have the kind of falling-off-the-rails impulsiveness it had as a handful of kids coming of age in Boston's hardcore scene, the Mission of Burma myth lives on to prove once again how Miller, Conley and Prescott escaped their certain fate of what-could-have-been.