Mission of Burma The Obliterati

[Matador; 2006]

Rating: 3/5

Styles:  post-punk
Others: Wire, Slint

Ahh, Mission of Burma... the M-O-B or the American Wire, as I like to call them. These rascals are twenty-some years into their career, and The Obliterati is only their third full-length album. They released a classic single, "Academy Fight Song" (1980), a rockin' EP, Signals, Calls, and Marches (1981), a monumental slab of art-punk as their debut LP, Vs. (1982), and then took an extended vacation, presumably to the beach. Over 20 years later, Mission of Burma reformed and released Onoffon in 2004, an album that picked up right where Vs. left off and was undeniably on par with their earlier output.

The Obliterati, however, is a tricky one; it certainly isn't as immediate as Onoffon, an album more akin to Signals, Calls, and Marches in its full-throttle rock than to the obtuseness of Vs. At first, I took this to mean that these Myanmar-Questers had finally sunk into mediocrity, but then I remembered just how long it took for Vs. to grow on me. So, I tried to zero in on what I found dissatisfying about The Obliterati, but despite an intuitive sense of remaining dissatisfaction, this quest proved to be fruitless, leaving me with only a vague criticism: The Obliterati just doesn't have quite the same zip as their previous output.

However, in my careful listening, I found that I do like most of the songs. Certainly the opening trio of "2wice," "Spider's Web," and "Donna Sumeria" are hands-down soon-to-be Burma classics. Even Peter Prescott's songs are uniformly solid (the same can't be said for his contributions to Onoffon). Essentially, if you dig the sound of Burma, this album will be an enjoyable listen, as the band has the same fury and depth they've always had. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm has to do with the fact that their early material has beautifully stood the test of time, with Onoffon signaling an unusually triumphant comeback, while The Obliterati, unfortunately, is the first business-as-usual Burma release.

Misgivings aside, I can wholeheartedly recommend this album as something a Burma fan will enjoy.

1. 2wice
2. Spider's Web
3. Donna Sumeria
4. Let Yourself Go
5. 1001 Pleasant Dreams
6. Good , Not Great
7. 13
8. Man in Decline
9. Careening With Conviction
10. Birthday
11. The Mute Speaks Out
12. Is This Where?
13. Period
14. Nancy Reagan's Head