Mission of Burma turn it up at the ‘dise

A review of Mission of Burma at the Paradise Rock Club on January 15, 2010

, Contributing Writer

Boston’s Paradise Rock Club has been open since 1977, a time when Punk was just starting to storm the country. The ‘dise featured heavily in this new trend and the long and impressive list of punk and post-punk bands that have played there lines the hallway heading into the main room, not the least of which are Mission of Burma. A Boston band that laid the groundwork for alternative music, inspiring everyone from R.E.M. to Moby, their reformation eight years ago, and their subsequent albums have again made them again a staple at the Paradise. They returned to the old stomping grounds this past weekend for a pair of shows, starting on Friday
Just as they did 25 years ago, Mission of Burma played it loud for their hometown crowd on Friday. They sounded like fellow post-punkers Gang of Four, but with less of a groove and more of a stomp. Drummer Peter Prescott played with big, thundering strokes. A glass partition, coupled with Christmas style lights hung around his drum set, made watching him drum an odd but mesmerizing experience. Roger Miller slashed and thrashed his guitar and bassist Clint Conley looked like he is still playing the bass he was when the band formed. They represented a pure, hardworking punk aesthetic and theme of the evening of was full blown, rocking-out energy.

Mission of Burma brought a very democratic approach to the night as all members took turns at singing lead vocals. On “1,2,3…party!” off the band’s new album The Sound the Speed the Light, they even got one of their roadies to come on stage to speak the recurring counting vocal motif. It makes sense because their lead vocals compliment each other so well. Miller tends to sing with a slightly distanced, gruff tone, while Conley, the other main vocalist sings more of piercing, English sounding tenor. On many of the songs, all three would sing on the chorus and one feature of Mission of Burma’s music, is their ability to create vibrant and memorable choruses. When coupled with their angular and complex song structures in the bridge and verse, it gives the chorus even more weight and energy.

The band pulled widely from the entire catalogue. From the Vs. standout, “Trem II,” with its buoyant, mid tempo groove, to a brand new unreleased song “Hi-Fi” which featured Miller’s trebly and repetitive guitar lines. Although their songs and approach has changed some over the course of their career, they have maintained a consistency that makes hearing an unreleased song just as rewarding as one of their classics from the beginning of their career. They saved fan favorite “That’s When I Reach for my Revolver” until the encore and it rocked all the harder for the wait. 

One slight negative from the show was the strange use of loops. At times the odd mix of extra vocals, eerie sounds and looped chords added something to the music, but largely their fierce angular punk didn’t mix with loops that sounded better fit for a shoegaze or noise rock band, and those loops just distracted from the steamroller riffs and heavy barrage.

In the end, though, Mission of Burma can’t help but put on a great show. Since reforming in 2002, the band is now rocking together for their longest consecutive period of their career. Time has served them well and few bands half their age work work and rock as hard these Boston veterans. 


Leave a Reply