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Mission of Burma: ONoffON

CD Review


When the seminal underground rock band Mission of Burma broke up in 1983, two things were clear: They were destined to go down as one of rock music's most tantalizing what-ifs, and there was little chance of a reunion ever occurring. The band's two spectacular releases Signals, Calls and Marches and Vs cemented the first statement. The painful tinnitus (chronic ear ringing) suffered by singer and guitarist Roger Miller ensured the latter, and redirected him into avant-garde classical piano. But as has often been the case in this Age of Reissues, M.O.B. was resuscitated in 2003 by a renewed interest in their past releases and legendary live shows. The resultant album, ONoffON, is that rarest of reunion treats: a new release that doesn't require knowledge of past releases to be a thrilling listen. The same chugging guitars, obscure lyrics and tape-loop tricks that made M.O.B. stand out as the preeminent artsy-fartsy punks of the 1980s power--indeed, they have gotten even louder and more intricate in their old age. Every track is so tight, so furious, that Miller can't help but pepper the album with passionate nonverbal yelps. I echo his enthusiasm. OnoffON makes as excellent an introduction to M.O.B. as it does a career capstone.

--Nicholas Collias