An old Boston friend wrote me an email in late 2001 to tell me that Mission of Burma was reuniting after a 2 decade hiatus. The news ruined my day. Why would Mission of Burma want to reunite with its three founding members well into middle age? Had Roger, Peter and Clint succumbed to the impulse to finally cash in while the Mission of Burma name was still bankable? The Sacred Legend of Burma would certainly go up in flames, as the reunited members would certainly be a mid-life crisis parody of the band's former glory. An artistically viable reunion of a middle-aged Mission of Burma seemed akin to something like mission impossible.
For three short years (1980-1983) Mission of Burma was the band that was our life. In the fashionably right wing climate of the early Reagan/Thatcher years, our boys fought the power and laughed in the face of conventional success as rock stars. It wasn't all about fame and fortune for Mission of Burma. Burma's music was about the outsider, the quiet loner who finally makes a political statement by reaching for his revolver and blowing it all away. Burma's left-leaning politics were aligned to the anti-authoritarian stance that inspired post-punk bands like the Gang of Four, the Mekons, Au-Pairs and even the Clash in the late Seventies.
The 2004 release of "Onoffon" on the venerable indie label Caroline, Mission of Burma gives faith to the jaded skeptics who believe that lightening cannot strike twice. From the opening chords of "The Setup" the trio plays with the same intensity, inspiration, clarity and creativity as their farewell gig in the Bradford Ballroom in 1983.
If anything the refinements in digital technology has enhanced the chugging leviathan rhythms of Peter Prescott and Clint Conley's signature drum and bass sound. Roger Miller's knotty riff driven guitar that inevitably resolved the dramatic tension with squalls of feedback remains intact. This is not a watered down, chilled out, lounge lizard version of Burma. Mission of Burma 2004 remains unafraid to enter the eye of the hurricane.
Burma rages against the New McCarthyism of the current George W. Bush era with the same vehemence as they did in opposition to the New World Order of the Reagan/Bush years of the early Eighties. The egalitarian experimental spirit of the early Eighties when Mission of Burma played seedy Boston punk rock circuit in clubs like the Underground, the Rat and Cantones has risen from the ashes. The resurrected Burma can still deliver deadly blows against the empire and inspire shock and awe.