Mission Of Burma - Unsound

One of the best rock albums of the year.

Label: Fire Records

Rating: 8

It is 20 years since Mission Of Burma released their debut album ‘Vs.’, although you wouldn’t know if from listening to their new record ‘Unsound’. If you played both to someone who knew nothing of the band they’d say they were recorded within a few months of each other. That’s not to say that Unsound sounds dated, just that you would never believe it was made by a group of men firmly in middle age.

This is the fourth album the band has released since reforming in 2004, but the spark and song-writing talent that first saw them become underground heroes is obviously still there. There’s tension and paranoia in the music but also release and triumph. And certainly no sign that these guys have mellowed out.

While their previous two albums were slicker productions, ‘Unsound’ is closer to their earlier sound of angled, jittery post-punk and tape manipulation. It’s as if the recently applied varnish has cracked, revealing an abrasive surface carved out by distortion and volume.

On the track ‘Sectionals In Mourning’ a whirlwind of guitar noise grinds down the opening granite bass riff. Following on from this is ‘This Is Hi-Fi’, which sounds like it was recorded in a padded cell rather than a studio. ‘What They Tell Me’ opens with defiant vocals, and then, what’s that, a trumpet? In fact, producer and now permanent member Bob Weston blows the brass on a few tracks. He is also likely to be responsible for the occasional weird sounds and voices that creep into the background of the songs and tease your sanity.

In the middle of the album ‘Part The Sea’ and ‘Add In Unison’ build to wonderful peaks, showing that the band has never just been about noise and that there is a real unity in their taut playing.

Few bands have had a second wind like Mission Of Burma, and if they can keep producing albums like ‘Unsound’ there’s no reason for them to stop. It’s one of the best rock albums of the year and shows there’s no age limit on kicking up dust and splitting ear drums.