[Mission of Burma (and Shepherdess) at the Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA 1/20 and 1/21/2012. Photos by Michael Piantigini.]
Mission of Burma are a national goddamn treasure. When I'm President, I'm going to come up with some medal to give them like the one they gave McCartney where they have to do a Command Performance at the White House.
Ten years, thirteen days, and three albums or so into their reunion, Burma have been back at it for more than twice as long as their original run and, judging by recent interviews are still doing it for all the right reasons. It's true that they were just unpopular enough to make any long-term cash-in a largely fruitless endeavor - I suppose that's what the Pixies are for - but they've always been the kind of band that keeps doin' it 'cause they're feelin' it. Hell, Burma sets where they don't play ANY of their oldies are not terribly uncommon, and people don't even get mad about it or nuthin'. They continue to come up with songs that stand up well to their iron-clad legacy.
Neither of these two sold out Brighton Music Hall shows were one of those shows, though most of their main sets were given over to brand new material filled-in with some of the better stuff from their modern era - I was as happy to hear "The Setup," "The Enthusiast," "Spider's Web," "Man In Decline," "1,2,3 Partyy!," and "Good Cheer" as anything else. That said, when, near the end of each night's set, Clint Conley mumbled the intro to "That's When I Escaped My Certain Fate," the club - and the band - exploded. It was classics from there on out and we were reminded yet again of the band's flexibility and musicianship - for every ponderous "Trem Two" or "Einstein's Day," there's a pure punk blast like "Ballad of Johnny Burma" or the Dils' "Class War." And, sure, let's throw in that obscure Alice Cooper cover ("Reflected" from 1969's Pretties For You) while we're at it.
Everyone was in top form - Roger Miller slashed at his guitar, moving effortlessly between power chords and mind-bending leads, Clint Conley cut a lanky figure, his muscular basslines driving the bus, and Peter Prescott practices understated devastation on drums. Next time you see them, grab a spot with a good view of him - it's amazing to see, and his feral yells show him to be the heart of the operation. Let's not forget Bob Weston's loops here either. If the complexity of the songs wasn't enough, Weston adds another layer of texture that helps set Burma above the rest.
There's still no announced label for the album their finishing up. Will someone please open up their checkbook and get this thing done?
- Michael Piantigini
Mission of Burma: Intertubes