Clint Conley - bass, vocals
Roger Miller - guitar, vocals
Peter Prescott - drums, vocals
Robert Weston - tape loops
"The pioneering blend of avant-rock noise and tense melodicism that Clint Conley, Roger Miller, Peter Prescott, and tape manipulator Martin Swope brought to the post-punk frontier remains as bracing today as it was almost two decades ago."
- Mark Woodlief, Boston Phoenix
'ONoffON' represents the first new studio recordings in 22 years from Mission Of Burma, the Boston avant-rockers whose early works for the Ace Of Hearts label helped stake their claim as one of the most important bands in American rock.
Recorded this past autumn with Bob Weston (Shellac) and original producer Rick Harte, 'ONoffON' is a work of staggering complexity showcasing a group just as ahead of their time in 2004 as they were in 1982. The trio of Roger Miller (guitar, vocals), Clint Conley (bass, vocals) and Peter Prescott (drums, vocals), along with Bob Weston (on tape manipulation, replacing original member Martin Swope, who's in musical retirement) have completed an album brimming with all the raw power of their debut, yet revealing tones, textures and lyrical themes unimaginable the first time around. For our money, this isn't just a hot new release, it's a goddamn cultural event.
During Mission Of Burma's brief tenure, circa '79-'83 they released one album, one EP and two singles for Ace Of Hearts, all of which were later reissued on CD by Rykodisc. Demo recordings were later released in less impressive form by the Taang! label. (See discography page for full details.)
Though they'd share stages with the likes of Sonic Youth, Pere Ubu Gang Of Four, Black Flag and other icons of the rock underground's golden era, Mission Of Burma never quite achieved the worldwide popularity of the names mentioned above. Poor timing had much to do with it - the group disbanded in early '83 as guitarist Miller's tinnitus condition worsened.
Mission Of Burma pulled the plug right on the brink of critical and commercial acceptance, and since the split, their musical influence has taken on mythic form. The number of bands who have cited Burma's influence is in obverse proportion to the group's record sales in 1983 - and it would not be an exaggeration to say they've had more of a media presence during their hibernation than during their initial existence, helped in some portion by old Burma classics being covered by the likes of REM, Moby, Blur's Graham Coxon and Syd Straw, among others.
The band's surviving trio have been involved in myriad other projects since '83 - Roger Miller with Birdsongs of The Mesozoic, The Binary System, Alloy Orchestra and No Man, Clint Conley with the more recent Consonant (as well as production duties on Yo La Tengo's first album, Ride The Tiger), and Peter Prescott's Volcano Suns, Kustomized (Matador vets) and Peer Groupâ€¦Still, for longtime fans and neophytes alike, the notion of a new Mission Of Burma album was thought to be the stuff of fantasy. Until now, that is.
In 2001, the founding members of Mission Of Burma - Roger Miller, Clint Conley and Peter Prescott, with Bob Weston replacing Swope - began performing together again for the first time since 1983. Subsequent shows in Boston, New York, London, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington DC unveiled a frighteningly contemporary band whose sonic palette has only grown during the layoff. Still suffering from tinnitus, Roger Miller keeps the volume on high but wears firing-range headphones and takes other precautions onstage so as not to compromise the intensity for fans.
To our ringing ears, 'ONoffON' is not a mere rehash of past glories; this is a sprawling, multi-layered epic that drops bombs all over the musical map, with three very distinct songwriters each at a startling peak. While some will doubtlessly be comfortable giving Mission Of Burma the odd paragraph (chapter, even) in the history of independent rock, this is the album that puts them firmly in a more rarified territory. The Stooges, MC5, Velvet Underground, Television, The Fall, Joy Division, PiL, etc. - this is the pantheon that Mission Of Burma are part of. The key difference being that these guys are very much alive and well, and they've yet to peak creatively. Enjoying this album doesn't require that you buy into the notion that the most influential band you've never heard are also the best band of 2004 - but it shouldn't hinder the experience, either.
Gerard Cosloy, 2004