Mission Of Burma Reunite For Shows, Festival
Influential underground Boston band Mission of Burma, who played their last show in 1983, have re-formed for shows in New York City and Boston beginning Saturday, January 12. Only one show per city was planned, but quick sellouts led to an additional show in each city.
Mission of Burma are revered in indie rock circles for their original twists on the prevalent post-punk music of their day (the early '80s). Initially a trio (Roger Miller, guitar/vocals; Clint Conley, bass/vocals; Peter Prescott, drums), Burma manipulated their sound by the application of drumsticks, cowbells, and other objects to the strings of already roaring guitars. Add a non-stop flow of tape loops, compliments of soundman/fourth member Martin Swope, and the result is close to uncategorizable. Through the noise emerged such anthems as "Academy Fight Song" (covered live by R.E.M.) and "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," a cover of which became a minor hit and source of controversy for Moby in the '90s.
The group's four-year life was cut short as the ear ailment tinnitus forced Roger Miller to leave the band at the height of its power. Considered critics' and musicians' darlings, Mission of Burma have influenced countless bands; all of their recordings are currently available on CD.
Among the many good reasons stated for regrouping is Mission of Burma's effective coronation as indie rock icons by Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad's recent book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, in which Burma rate a full chapter alongside Black Flag, The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, and a handful of other key indie rock combos. Other reasons range from the untimely death of Joey Ramone to the return of one-time Mission of Burma manager Mark Kates to Boston from the helm of now-defunct Grand Royal Records.
The original trio have remained in the greater Boston area; sound manipulator Martin Swope resides in Hawaii and isn't part of the re-formed band. He has, however, passed the baton to the able Bob Weston, who will, according to Prescott, "Swope it up as much as possible. The machines are different, but something similar will occur."
Weston may be best known as the bass player for Shellac, but he's also an accomplished engineer, having worked with such experimental rock bands as Six Finger Satellite, Rodan and Polvo.
The first shows will take place at New York's Irving Plaza on January 12 and 13. The sold-out Boston show at Avalon Ballroom on January 18 led to a second, booked for the 19th at Boston's Paradise Club. The group will also play two weekends this spring at the UK's All Tomorrow's Parties festival. Curated by Shellac, the fest will also include an appearance by Clint Conley's new band, Consonant, featuring ex-Come guitarist Chris Brokaw. Bob Toevs [Friday, January 11, 2002]