If you don't already know the name Mission Of Burma, do yourself a favor and get learned. They put out two pivotal releases in the post-punk genre, and were the subject of an excellent documentary entitled Not A Photograph: The Mission Of Burma Story. Since reuniting in 2002, Mission Of Burma has released four albums, the most recent of which is called Unsound, and what it delivers is, unfortunately, a bit under par.
Mission Of Burma's first two releases, 1981's Signals, Calls, And Marches and 1982's Vs. are two of the most highly regarded releases in their genre. After Vs., the band broke up and it seemed as though they would never return. However, this was not the case, and in 2004, their first new album was released, ONoffON, which was then followed by 2006's The Obliterati, 2009's The Sound The Speed The Light, and now 2012's Unsound. To be completely frank, it's good to know we still have Mission Of Burma around, but it's disappointing to hear what they're putting out. Their newer work is certainly not bad, but on Unsound especially, it's easy to hear the band showing their age.
The album opens with 'Dust Devil,' a short, strange leadoff track that almost sounds like it was meant to be from the middle of the album and was pushed to the top. Even stranger, the closing track on the album is titled 'Opener,' which is very reminiscent of 'Secrets,' the opening track on Vs. and would have made for a much better start to the album. 'Semi-Pseudo-Sort-Of Plan' follows, and is probably the strongest track the album has to offer. It's got a great melody, and has some sensibilities found on their first two releases, as does 'Second Television' and '7's.' On tracks like 'This Is Hi-Fi' and 'Add In Unison,' the band really tries to go for working with sounds that would have seemed perfect had they been done when they were together in the '80s, but now just seem like a failed attempt at executing nostalgia.
While most of the band seems fairly tight through most of the album, the biggest problem the record has going for it is the vocals. The three key members in the band - guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley, and drummer Peter Prescott - all share vocal duties in the group, and on this album, their vocals make them sound like an old band trying to relive the past.
At the end of the day, Unsound just comes off as being okay. It's certainly not a bad album; there are aspects of it that I do enjoy and songs that I will probably return to. The record as a whole is just underwhelming, however I still completely respect Mission Of Burma as a band and a landmark in music history, listening to Signals… and Vs. whenever I choose to do so.
Unsound is available now on Fire Records.