Mission Of Burma OnoffOn

Is it finally time for the music listening public to get Mission Of Burma? In the 22 years since the band’s self-imposed exile, a lot of musical ground has been covered and then retread, yet no one has ever managed to come close to this, the most sonically inventive band to traipse out of the ’80s-era American underground. Their presence is now felt everywhere; MOB’s sound has been pinched endlessly (REM covered "Academy Fight Song,” Pearl Jam lifted Vs. for their second album title, Sonic Youth couldn’t have existed without them) and now Mission Of Burma have resurfaced and left them all miles behind and scratching their heads again. What continues to set Mission Of Burma apart even now is the fact that they’ve always been able to inject melody into their often jarring rhythms and OnoffOn finds the band mining familiar territory in that regard. The instrumentation is dark and dense — like a difficult ocean — but always riding the crest of the tidal wave is a delicate melody that is often the only thing holding the underlying madness together. All three of the remaining members (tape manipulator Martin Swope is enjoying musical retirement and has been replaced with Bob Weston) contributed music to OnoffOn, but unlike other bands with three songwriters, the record is consistent and solid throughout and even the addition of sweet-voiced ex-Throwing Muses starlet Tanya Donnelly does not break the mood as the band sears through time-worn salvos like "Falling,” "Wounded World” and "What We Really Were” — kicking over fresh musical dissonance to map along the way. Even 22 years after they called it quits, nothing about OnoffOn sounds forced (and if so not in a bad way — the band has always been at their best when they’ve seemed uncomfortable) or dishonest. In that way, the masochistic nature that always made the band so strangely cathartic is firmly in place and finds MOB delivering another great record. Whether anyone hears it will remain to be seen — but if they do, Mission Of Burma will finally get the credit they deserve. (Matador)