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Mission of Burma, Unsound

August 17, 2012

Mission of Burma, who will be playing the Black Cat in D.C. next month, is amazingly still not tired, but they might be
getting there. Their fifth album, Unsound, shows off the same noisy, amped-up band that puts punkers half their age to shame, but it doesn’t expand on their other post-reunion releases. It’s a good record for anyone that misses earnest punk even though it’s not a great Mission of Burma record.

All of the classic Mission of Burma elements are still there,
squirrelly, jagged guitar licks are prominent on “Sectionals in Mourning,” and the end of “What They Tell Me” puts their trademark tape manipulation to effective use. “Dust Devil” resurrects post-punk dance beats with that classic funk-tinged bass line, but the band switches up the time signature which keeps it from sounding like too
much of a throw-back.

Vocally, Unsound is relatively subdued and is missing sing-along anthems like “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” and “Academy Fight Song.” With no stand out tracks, the album threatens to blur into
sameness yet it is satisfying to listen to because the band’s sound isso original to start with.

ONoffON was a more exciting record, in part, because it showed what a recording budget could do for the band’s notoriously loud and at times uncontrollable sound. Of course, hi-fidelity is nothing if the songs aren’t fresh. Compared to their last two records, Unsound sounds less immediate, like Mission of Burma has less to prove.

Still, Unsound is a more energetic effort than most albums by bands a quarter of Mission of Burma’s age, and their sincerity is a welcome refresher in the current climate of ironic revivals. So, while it may be more of the same, that might not be such a bad thing. And consider that when so many new artists are still looking to bands like Joy Division, Gang of Four and Fugazi, isn’t it nice to have the real
thing around?

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