Mission of Burma

Unsound

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Conventional wisdom has it that rock bands tend to find a comfortable creative path with the passage of time, and as they age their music settles into a predictable cycle. Thankfully, conventional wisdom has nothing to do with Mission of Burma, and 33 years after they started making music together (and ten years after they defied all expectations by reuniting), Unsound confirms these guys haven't run out of ways to surprise us, or to challenge themselves. While 2009's The Sound the Speed the Light suggested Mission of Burma were losing a bit of their focus, Unsound is as radical and aggressive as anything they have ever created, and hits with the unified force of a fist to the temple. Unsound is less song-oriented than much of MoB's previous work, with the emphasis placed on the interaction of these musicians in the studio, and though the tunes don't immediately reveal new masterpieces in the vein of "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" or "Einstein's Day," the ferocity of the interplay between Roger Miller's guitar, Clint Conley's bass, and Peter Prescott's drumming is bracing, fiery, and fresh, as the ingredients often jump off at right angles to one another yet somehow interact with a satisfying fusion of precision and chaos. "Semi-Pseudo-Sort-of Plan" and "Second Television" melodically resemble Mission of Burma's classic era, but the sweaty brio of the attack and eagerness to play with their own conventions are startling and entirely welcome (dozens of current bands would be proud to conjure up beautiful waves of noise the way Miller does here), and though this never sounds like anyone other than Mission of Burma, it's Mission of Burma finding new avenues in their style and approach that are explosive and satisfying. And as Bob Weston has had a decade to fit into this group's creative process, his jagged blasts of trumpet bring some new seasoning to the music that's just as welcome as his unobtrusive production and engineering and his imaginative use of loops. On Unsound, Mission of Burma follow no rules other than following their collective vision wherever it leads, and their musical wanderlust has resulted in one of the most exciting and eye-opening albums they've made to date; anyone who figured MoB's reunion would be a brief victory lap motivated more by nostalgia than the creative spirit has been given a swift, sharp kick to the conventional wisdom.

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