Misfits - Collection (1978-1984), Safe For Children (1978-1983), 12 Hits From Hell (1980), Walk Among Us (1982). The horror! The horror! As with horror and sci-fi movies, punk music - especially in its infancy - brought out the scolds to decry it as nihilistic and anti-human. But while some punk, like horror and sci-fi movies, could be that, most of it was a reaction to stultifying cultural norms. The Misfits brought together the extremes of all three, and man, they were fun. Collection is a classic Misfits compilation. Safe For Children is a compilation I found on the Internet some many years ago. It has some crossover with Collection. 12 Hits From Hell was an album recorded in 1980, but the Misfits were unhappy with it and it was unreleased for many years. I'm pretty sure that the Misfits are my brother-in-law's favorite band, and he gave me this copy of 12 Hits From Hell, so thanks, Jeff! Walk Among Us is a stone-cold punk rock classic, with rough edges covering a masterful sense of songcraft that seems a parallel of George Romero's low-budget/high-concept/powerfully directed Night Of The Living Dead.
Mission Of Burma - Signals, Calls and Marches EP (1981), Vs. (1982), The Horrible Truth About Burma (1985), Peking Spring (1985), Forget (1987), ONoffON (2004), The Obliterati (2006), Innermost single (2009), and The Sound, The Speed, The Light (2009). Mission of Burma is one of my favorite bands, and one of rock's most unlikely success stories. They were a Boston-based band between 1979 and 1983, consisting of Roger Miller (not the King of the Road guy) on guitar and vocals, Clint Conley on bass and vocals, Peter Prescott on drums and vocals, and Martin Swope, an Eno-esque figure who created tape loops and sound manipulations live and in the studio. Their sound, which is integral to later indie rock, was built around Conley's melodic basslines, with Miller and Prescott alternating between noisy excess and minimalism. Their lyrics were literate in a way that practically invented the term "college rock." They made an EP and an album and then split up in the face of general indifference, the fate of most rock bands. But they had fans, man, fans who went on to be in bands like REM, Yo La Tengo, Superchunk, the Pixies, Pearl Jam, and Guided By Voices. Twenty years later, Mission of Burma got back together (with Bob Weston of Shellac and Volcano Suns replacing Swope) and started making music again that was just as vital and revelatory as their music from their first run. Very few bands have managed to do this kind of rebirth without becoming an oldies act. In fact, the only other ones I can think of are Dinosaur Jr., who were also influenced by Mission of Burma, and the Go-Betweens, who most likely were not. Signals, Calls and Marches is chock-full of rock goodness, starting with "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," Clint Conley's re-appropriation of Goering's criticism of culture. "Academy Fight Song," a single now included with most releases of the EP, is another Conley anthem. "This Is Not A Photograph" and "Max Ernst" explicitly reference high-concept art, while my favorite song, "Fame And Fortune" has Roger Miller admonishing himself for attempting to find the attributes of the title against his better judgment. Vs. starts with the two-chord "Secrets," demonstrates right off the bat how much MOB could find subtle variance in a repetitive structure, and ends with the virtually perfect "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate," a breakneck explanation of a breakup. Horrible Truth is a live album that's fun for fans without adding anything but a little more mystique to the MOB myth. Peking Spring and Forget are filled with outtakes that range from excellent (most of which are on the former) to needing-improvement. All three of their albums upon reformation are very good, although I think they've had slightly diminishing returns for me. They have a certain similarity and clarity of purpose that I believe comes with age and wisdom. There's no noticeable falling-off of quality or vitality of performance, but the songs on Sound Speed Light have never quite grabbed me as much as the ones on ONoffON or Obliterati. This may be a real slight drop in some way, but more likely, it's that I am overfamiliar with their formula. And I don't have a problem with that. As long as MOB makes albums, I'm sure I'll continue to love their albums.
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