Mission of Burma

The Sound the Speed the Light

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In a decade that's been filled with alternative rock warhorses staging increasingly unlikely reunions (ranging from the Stooges to the Pixies), one can reasonably argue that no band has had a more satisfying second act than Mission of Burma. They were a group with almost peerless credibility and a catalog destined to stand the test of time when they broke up in 1983, and since returning to duty in 2002, in many respects they've become an even better band, playing consistently strong and blisteringly powerful live shows and recording two albums, Onoffon and The Obliterati, that are as intelligent and satisfying as those they released in the 1980s. So if The Sound the Speed the Light can be called a disappointment, it's only in the most relative terms; from a band that's released two great albums within a space of three years after 19 years out of the game, this one instead falls into the category of "very good." Mission of Burma are playing as well as ever on The Sound the Speed the Light; Peter Prescott's drumming manages to be both inventive and relentless, giving the music a solid root even as he pushes the songs forward, while Clint Conley's bass is a perfect foil, both agile and commanding, and Roger Miller's guitar stubbornly and joyously defies any and all clich├ęs pertaining to lead guitar in rock & roll. However, while Bob Weston's engineering and production capture the details pretty well, the results lack the solid punch of the previous Mission of Burma 2.0 releases, making the more dynamic performances sound hollow rather than spacious. And the vocals are often a bit too low in the mix to be comfortable, though Weston's tape loops play a larger and more effective role than before. And as a set of songs, this album falls a bit short of the standards established by MoB's previous work; "1, 2, 3, Partyy!," "One Day We Will Live There," and "Slow Faucet" are anthemic in the great Burma tradition, and "SSL 83," "Feed," and "Comes Undone" show they can effectively work with less aggressive material, but there isn't much else here that sounds like it's worthy of this group's A list. The Sound the Speed the Light falls a few feet short of the level of excellence Mission of Burma have set for themselves in the past -- though most contemporary bands would be overjoyed to make an album as interesting and compelling as this one.

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