The first time I saw Mission of Burma they were opening for Yo La Tengo and The Flaming Lips at Brown University’s 2007 Spring Concert. The day’s musical events went in this order:
1. Mission of Burma 2. Yo La Tengo 3. The Flaming Lips
Incidentally, that was also the order of pants-explosion excellence. Mission of Burma blew me out of my shorts with their pulverizing guitar weapons. They brought an enormous amount of energy to their forty-five minute set, even tho they were playing for only a hundred apathetic college-aged indie rockers.
And I thought The Flaming Lips plain sucked that day. Wayne Coyne was too busy jaunting on about our useless president to realize that his music sounded like dung. He sermonized endlessly like he was Pete fucking Seeger. Hey Wayne, newsflash, yr in Providence, at Brown University, and yr preaching to the choir. Play “She Don’t Use Jelly” and shut yr butt. At War with the Mystics was an abomination and it somehow sounded worse live.
Back to Mission of Burma. That day they were the perfect foil to the Lips, playing bare bones guitar rock, sounding both weirdly futuristic and modern, but paying homage to the past, while the Lips reminded me of a bunch of fatties playing in a Pink Floyd cover band.
An inspiring, enlightening set of punk rock purity from a gang of aging hipsters vs. a bloated, disgusting disgrace. Mission of Burma 1, Flaming Lips 0.
(Yo La Tengo were great, too, but I kind of expected that. And I saw the Lips this summer and they were fantastic. Helps to have a good record to tour on, I suppose.)
I’ve seen Mission of Burma four times since and each time they’ve blown me to bits like a terrorist packing a suicide bomb inside a crowded marketplace. One time I just stood in front of guitarist Roger Miller for the entire show and couldn’t stop crying.
Frankly, I believe these gentle rock dinosaurs are the best punk rockers in all the land. Or they at least build up, then release, the most adrenaline in my body whenever I hear their music.
I mean, look at how fucking sick this video is:
Their last record, The Sound, the Speed, the Light straight-up embarrasses the current emotionless chill-wave crap everyone seems to be playing..talk about stunting the growth of music..shit is just kinda creepy and sleepy…
OK. Enough of me. Here’s the interview, with Mission of Burma bassist Clint Conley:
1. Why do you make music?
Clint Conley: I was always obsessed with music as a fan. I developed into a full blown unregenerate music snob, obscurantist, proseletyzer, smarter-than-thou teenage pain in the ass. I signed on to be punk bands because it was the most exciting thing I’d ever heard, assuming at the time I would be along as a passenger on someone else’s train. But then I tried writing a song, and it wasnt laughed at, and then another and another.
the writing seems to come in waves. I wrote a handful of songs in the early 80s, then a whole shitload in the early 00’s.
2. What records, off the top of your head, greatly changed the way you thought about music?
CC: Beefheart’s Trout Mask
Iggy’s Raw Power
Wire’s Pink Flag
3. Where is your favorite place to play?
CC: hmm, Chicago’s cool, so’s DC, Ny and Bos for that matter. in terms of clubs? anyplace unusual or off the grid. there’s a cool place in Portland OR called the Doug Fir [Twin Peaks meets the Jetsons], and a bombed out DIY space in Detroit called the Bohemian Natl Club, an old decrepit school w people living in it and art installations. Or maybe I dreamed that.
4. What is your favorite type of food?
CC: I am digging Vietnamese at the moment. But before I’m electrocuted I’ll ask for brownies