In with the new

Mission of Burma, Institute of Contemporary Art, September 23, 2007
By JIM SULLIVAN  |  September 24, 2007
Mission of Burma

Mission of Burma left the building — the Institute of Contemporary Art — last Sunday without playing the “hits.” No “Academy Fight Song.” No “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver.”

“Sooner or later, you’ve gotta draw back,” said drummer/singer Peter Prescott post-show. “It almost feels awkward to leave ’em out — it’s the Maypole the others swing around. But you have to find reasons to exist; you have to change the fabric, and you change in little increments. I wouldn’t blame anyone for being mildly annoyed.”

So the fans that nearly filled the theater were treated to a 70-minute set that included four new songs — most notably guitarist Roger Miller’s “So Fuck It.” “I often wonder what I’m really worth,” he sang, “but I won’t take shit from you or anyone else/So fuck it.”

The band — Prescott, Miller, bassist Clint Conley, and tape manipulator/sound engineer Bob Weston — worked through more than a dozen angular rockers. The newer material was slightly more conventional than the avant-punk this outfit is known for. But they still fit well among older tunes like “2twice,” “Spider Web,” “Mica,” “Trem Two,” and “This Is Not a Photograph.” There was a sense that Burma have barely harnessed the runaway rock-and-roll train that started chugging more than a quarter-century ago. And it still rattles along the track without a nod toward the “marketplace.” They’re a band who revel in bursts of ferocity and oddball hooks that come in unexpected places. If few of the songs have specific meanings, that’s because they’re designed to build up to a guitar storm, convey agitation, anger, or irony, and then deliver a calming moment before revving back up again.

That was Burma’s MO last Sunday. It’s worked in the past, and it retains the power to stun and excite.

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