Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The size of Nancy Reagan's head

Play it: Mission of Burma The Obliterati

When Mission of Burma made their 2004 comeback with ONoffOn, a chorus of post-punk fans like myself just about wet our pants. Not only was it a surprise to see them back at all, but to still sound as vital as they did back in 1982 was a revelation. Many of their bretheren have attempted similar comebacks (Wire and Gang of Four to name the obvious) but haven't been able to pull it off. Here it is two years later, and not only are they still together and touring, but they've released an even better album this time. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is their best full-length release - 25 years after breaking up! (The EP Signals, Calls and Machines is still their hands down best.)

From the first poundings of Clint Conley's "2wice," you can tell age has done nothing to quell their aggression. The chorus evokes a bit of "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," which is a spine-tingling joy. Then, at about 1:38 into the next song ("Spider's Web,") Roger Miller rips into the best Sonny Sharrock guitar impersonation I've ever heard - for a good example, listen to Sharrock's guitar in "Space Ghost Coast to Coast Theme," or about three minutes into "As We Used to Sing". Then, in a song gutsily called "Donna Summeria," they somehow magically manage to pull off intertwining Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" into the bridge of a song that's at least a continent away from disco. And we're only three songs into the album.

Next is Prescott's ripping punk workout "Let Yourself Go" and at this point, someone's giving me a standing-8 count and I go to a neutral corner to shake the cobwebs. Bob Weston's production (Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Sebadoh, MOB's ONoffON) here is big and crunchy, with room to spare. The space created on Miller's "13" is a thing of beauty, and the controlled chaos of "Careening with Conviction" has a calm-like clarity, even when the backwards vocals sift in.

And in case you thought Mission of Burma were far too serious, the closing song "Nancy Reagan's Head" contains what might be the funniest lyric of the year:
Roxy Music came to save the world
And all I got was this lousy T-shirt
And I'm haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan's head
No way that thing came with that body
The same couldn't be said of their body of work...so glad they stuck around to make what could end up being the best rock album of the year.

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