MISSION OF BURMA: Signals, Calls And Marches / Vs. / The Horrible Truth About Burma

After three decades, Mission Of Burma justly remains one of the college-rock era’s most influential groups. The Boston quartet honed an artier sound than its peers, fusing a British-informed snarl with Cleveland-inspired drive, bolstered by analog-tape manipulator Martin Swope’s sonic experiments. Mission Of Burma re-formed in 2002 with Shellac’s Bob Weston replacing Swope, and Matador is reissuing the group’s early work to sit beside the band’s pretty good recent albums. Two of these reissues, 1981 alt-rock blueprint Signals, Calls And Marches (which also contains benchmark single “Academy Fight Song”) and 1982’s harsher-sounding Vs. are still essential listening; but Signals oddly inverts the bonus-track order to run chronologically so the actual EP begins on track five. Third album The Horrible Truth About Burma was recorded during the band’s final tour in 1983 (before guitarist/vocalist Roger Miller’s tinnitus forced his initial departure from the group) and released two years later; it’s less important than its predecessors, though it contains bassist/vocalist Clint Conley’s excellent “Peking Spring” as well as Pere Ubu and Stooges covers. Billed as “definitive versions,” these releases are superior to Rykodisc’s remastering job from 1997 but don’t seem as “definitive” as that label’s Mission Of Burma, which bundled “Academy” with all of Signals and Vs. on one disc. Bonus Material: Signals contains two bonus tracks; Truth has one. Each album has liner notes with making-of interviews (without Swope) and DVDs featuring live footage. []

—Kory Grow