Three albums into its reformation—that’s more albums than it released the first time around, in the early ’80s—it’s time for Mission Of Burma to lose steam. The band’s improbable return to form began with 2004’s ONoffON, then took another surprising turn with 2006’s The Obliterati, a stunningly good album that stood with the band’s acknowledged classics, Vs. and Signals, Calls And Marches. Mission Of Burma not only sounded great for a reunited group of rock dudes well into middle age, but also for a rock group, period.
By its nature, that kind of excellence cannot be maintained, so it’s unsurprising to find Mission Of Burma making adjustments on the new The Sound The Speed The Light. Composed of four three-song “suites”—not in a proggy way, though—the record spends more time examining mood and atmosphere than previous Burma releases. There’s no indication of that at first, as the comically titled “1, 2, 3 Partyy!” opens in typical fashion: propulsive punk that sounds like an unreleased track from the band’s first heyday. The quieter, subtler tracks live a little later, like “Forget Yourself” (which recalls Sonic Youth) and the contemplative “Feed.” Although not as grabby as a track like “So Fuck It”—ending: “and I won’t take shit from you or anyone else / so fuck it”—they’re growers. The Sound The Speed The Light may not reach the same heights as its predecessor, but it shows Mission Of Burma still in fine form, and making rock’s most improbable comeback look easy.