Mission of Burma

The Horrible Truth About Burma

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Signals, Calls and Marches and Vs. proved that Mission of Burma were one of the best American bands to emerge in the wake of punk's first wave (and before the rise of indie rock), and no one who saw them live seems willing to dispute that they were a powerhouse on-stage. So no one could fault Mission of Burma for commemorating their final tour in 1983 with a live album, but the truth about The Horrible Truth About Burma is it simply isn't as strong as the studio recordings that preceded it; the performances are often superb, but the material on their final gesture lets them down. Mission of Burma chose to fill The Horrible Truth with songs that hadn't previously appeared on an album, which was a fine idea on paper, since the band wanted to preserve tunes that might otherwise be lost to the ages. But while there isn't a bad song to be found, the best original tunes are the ones that had already earned radio exposure in Boston as demos (in particular "Peking Spring" and "Dirt"), and while "Tremelo" and "Blackboard" were doubtless compelling performance pieces, as songs they don't scale the same heights as "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," "Einstein's Day" or "Fun World." (However, one wonders if Steve Albini was in attendance at the Chicago show where "Dumbells" was recorded, given its resemblance to his signature guitar style.) It seems significant that two of the strongest cuts are covers: a ferocious run-through of the Stooges' "1970," and a nearly nine-minute journey through "Heart of Darkness" by Pere Ubu. And while Mission of Burma are in strong, hard-hitting form throughout, they lack a bit of the fierce precision that made Vs. so memorable. The Horrible Truth About Burma is a fine souvenir for fans but not much of an intro for beginners; the home video release Live at the Bradford, shot at the band's final concert, does a superior job of capturing what made this group so compelling.

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