Mission of Burma – Signals, Calls and Marches

Mission of BurmaSignals, Calls and Marches (Rykodisc)

I was a year old when this EP was originally released. I was five when Mission of Burma broke up. The first time I was made aware of them was when I heard Moby’s cover of “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” on Animal Rights. But I have spent the better part of this week wandering around downtown hollering “This Is Not A Photograph!” in my head, with my own mental approximation of Roger Miller’s Boston-via-England vocal delivery.

I get the same feeling when listening to this collection of eight bits of angular, melodic noise that I did when I first heard the Clash and the Ramones: I wondered how I had existed this long without having them in my life. I wondered why I didn’t pay attention when I sat around listening to my snotty rock friends talk about Fugazi’s influences. These songs walk the line between noise and beauty. For every dissonant chord, punk sneering (“Outlaw”), and railing against “Fame and fortune,” we turn a corner and find harmonized, lovely voices within the same song. This is to say nothing about the sensitivity to be found in the lyrics, as illustrated beautifully on “Red”: “There’s a window in my head / there’s a window in my heart / I look out of it as I’m sleeping / and then I am torn apart.” We then turn another corner to be confronted with the beautiful guitar and ooh-ooh crooning of “All World Cowboy Romance.” You can hear everything within Mission of Burma.

For those of you who wish to be purists but don’t have the budget to accumulate this band’s entire discography, this reissue of their 1981 EP is a fine place to start as it adds “Academy Fight Song” and “Max Ernst,” the a- and b-side of their first single. Perhaps you even already own the reissue and it’s moldering at the back of your closet someplace. For the love of God, un-molder it. Give it to your little brother who thinks that Avril and Sum 41 are the pinnacle of punk. Wave it in front of your neighbor who has never forgiven you for engaging her in that debate about George Michael’s greatest hits. (You know you love them too; it’s okay, we’re all friends here.) But the bottom line is extremely simple: listen to it.

It will reaffirm what you loved about music in the first place. It will make it okay to breathe again. It may even change your life.

6 thoughts on “Mission of Burma – Signals, Calls and Marches”

  1. For that matter, give a copy to Avril herself. I read a funny article once about her band making her mix CDs with stuff like Green Day and The Clash on it, neither of which she’d ever heard of. Say it with me now, “David BOW-EE…”

    Mission of Burma’s 2002 reunion show at Chicago’s Metro was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.


  2. THey rule. I saw the Yeah YEah Yeahs and the guitarist talked about Mission alot so I checked them out. Really top stuff!

  3. I saw the Metro show too and what a powerful show it was. They were a bright, bright flash of brilliance and crystalline precision. The fact they played the songs that are so “old” with more power today than most new musicis testament to their legacy. They should be huge. but….

    I’ve given away more copies of Signals to more people than any other record. They need to be appreciated but at the same time I favor them as my little secret…..hehehe

  4. I was 9 when that EP came out BUT i didnt know about Mission of Burma till i was 30 and saw em at the 9:30 club in DC. They were awesome that night. Imagine the headrush as I heard a lot of my fave bands influence performing there in front of me for the first time! It was GREAT!

  5. I saw them in DC too, great show. They weren’t fat and old, and it was a really good crowd.

    Also, there’s a good mention of them in that book “Our Band Could Be Your Life.” Interesting story, and kind of depressing at the same time. They really didn’t get big until well after they broke up.

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