Thursday, June 09, 2005

M, VII

Mission Of Burma- OnOFFOn

I saw one of the first Mission of Burma reunion shows. I was excited- ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life’ had just come out, and the chapter on the act was a good one. So me and BQ went down to the Avalon, sat through the Explosion (a band who would later emerge as one of the zillion Boston acts who are supposed to be fucking huge but never break so much as wind. This city, founded on a rich, storied history, never learns from the past, which is a fucking shame) and then enjoyed the main event. They were good. Would have been better if they hadn’t played every goddamn song they knew, but they weren’t playing ‘em all for me- those encores were for the people who had seen Burma play the first time, I know. Standard show/record complaint, blah blah blah.

Anyway, they followed their live shows with a new record. The fact that it doesn’t suck outright makes it worthy of any plaudits heaped upon it by the music press- a reunion that was motivated by a chance to play to a larger audience the second time around rather than by empty coffers. Every review I read was overly positive, so I checked it out, but warily.

I feel like the band’s reunion, one of the most successful I can remember, has generated a little bit of hyperbole. Why not? It’s way easier to appreciate something after it’s already happened and has been documented, so there’s going to be a little bit of after-the-fact ass-kissing when a new record drops, right? People giving this record a free pass because it was the comeback album by Mission of Burma?

Uh, no. Not at all.

All hyperbole and after-the-facting aside here: OnOFFOn fits seamlessly into the existing Burma catalogue, generates the same comfortably suffocating buzz as Roger Miller’s guitar bursts in fits and jagged starts, locking in with the no-windshear rhythm section and the audio manipulations of Bob Weston (even more fucked than Swope’s). A complete triumph.

Moby- 18

I keep telling my friends that the quickest way to get some royalty checks rolling in is to write a whole album of sorta innocuous, non-obtrusive music that can be played in every nice restaurant in the country. Think about it: five hundred restaurants playing your stuff six nights a week = cha-ching.

I totally forgot that Moby already did it, and cornered the market for commercials, to boot. Sorry, guys.

Modern Lovers- s/t

It helps that I live here in Boston, of course. The odd trip on the T that takes me past the Government Center train stop always finds me thinking ‘They’ve got a lotta lotta great desks and chairs, uh-huh, at the Government Center.’ Same thing when I happen to be driving on Route 128 after sundown- ‘128 when it’s dark outside, I’m in love with the radio on.’ (And every time I hear ‘I’m Straight’ I think of Austin Bagley- if you live in Boston and don’t know him, get in touch and I’ll introduce you.)

I’m still amazed by this record because things have gotten very crass and calculated since it was recorded. If anyone put out an album nowadays that was as heart-on-sleeve and innocent, the music press (which, for the sake of argument, would totally include me) would assume that the lake of any sort of pretense was some kind of schtick, or, worse yet, an anti-schtick- contrived innocence. Music can’t just be nowadays, have you noticed that? It’s got to be something. Fuck, I’m to blame for it as much as anyone- after a zillion band conversations it gets to be easier to rattle off some list of influences than to talk about how the music makes you feel.

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers sing about a bunch of simple things- driving, girls, loneliness- and do it without copping an attitude or striking a pose. They just bang the songs out, then move on, not trying to be anything but the Modern Lovers. 1972 was a time when everything was going epic, going prog- the market for pop songs was dwindling. They just went out, played, and produced this wonderful, innocent, ass-kicking album that nothing sticks to, despite the layers and layers of commercialism and cynicism that are heaped onto damn near everything nowadays. It’s still essentially what it was when it was released. Awesome.

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