[CD Review] Mission of Burma, 'The Sound the Speed the Light' (Matador)

With the release of The Sound the Speed the Light, Boston postpunk heavyweights Mission of Burma have now released three times as many albums since reuniting in 2002 as in their initial lifespan of 1979-83, which yielded the genre classic Vs. Far from cash-ins, the albums have been freakishly strong, especially 2006’s The Obliterati. The quartet, completed in this incarnation by engineer Bob Weston (ex-Shellac), are as messy and mighty as ever, still driven by shouted vocals, Roger Miller’s lacerating guitar riffs, Clint Conley’s overpowering bass lines and Peter Prescott’s contact-sport drumming.

This fourth album engages from the start with the binge-drinking satire “1, 2, 3, Partyy!”—another blistering rave-up in a long line of them. From there, “Possession” packs a wealth of jagged shifts into its wordless portions, distortion-hazy “After the Rain” closes with a sublime guitar part, and welcome sidetrack “SSL 83” casts a surprising fog of keyboards and contains the album’s title phrase. There’s variety, then, although the band maintain a white-knuckle grasp on their swaggering songs and sneering voices, whether thin or gruff.

The second half kicks off with the loose, poppy “One Day We Will Live There,” spiked with a Bo Diddley beat in its breakdown. “So Fuck It” is appropriately chaotic, whereas “Feed” moves at a sluggish wander but proves no less brawny or gripping. “Good Cheer” and “Comes Undone” are short, rousing bursts of power, and the album caps with the more considered “Slow Faucet.” It’s not the most revolutionary form of rock in the world, but it’s a robust outing that sits well next to Mission of Burma’s other work.

 
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