Mission of Burma | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mission of Burma 

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If you believe that the best albums in any genre are those that explode our preconceptions of what that genre is, then Mission of Burma's 1982 full-length Vs. is one of the greatest punk-rock records ever made. The band had established its punk credentials with a couple earnest anthems penned by bassist Clint Conley; the single "Academy Fight Song" and "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," which opened their 1981 EP Signals, Calls, and Marches, became staples of other acts' sets (most famously R.E.M. and Moby). But instead of just playing the tunes, guitarist Roger Miller eviscerated them with piercing feedback, and the tangential melodies that Conley walked over drummer Peter Prescott's rushing tempos sounded like they were rolling in from entirely different songs. The most disruptive force was the group's barely seen fourth member, Martin Swope. In concert he recorded the band from the sound board and threw his treatments back into the mix; on Vs. his churning loops turn the eerie "Trem Two" and anguished "Dead Pool" into dizzying maelstroms. Not long after the album came out Burma broke up--their punishing live volume was aggravating Miller's tinnitus. Miller pursued a solo career, mostly playing piano; he and Swope were founding members of the instrumental combo Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, and he also sat in with Prescott's Volcano Suns. After producing Yo La Tengo's first album, Conley pretty much disappeared from the music world, resurfacing this year with a new band, Consonant. Then, this past January, nearly 19 years after they quit, Mission of Burma played a show in Somerville, Massachusetts; they've been gigging sporadically ever since. Swope, who now lives in Hawaii, declined to participate, so Shellac bassist Bob Weston (formerly of the Volcano Suns) is handling the tape loops. Advance reports say the band is as good as ever. Friday, November 22, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
December 04
Galleries & Museums
Monet and Chicago Art Institute of Chicago
November 02

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