Vinyl Friday #27: Mission of Burma “Vs”


When I was younger I always thought the two Ace of Hearts record labels were the same thing. Like, “How cool is it that both Mission of Burma and Ella Fitzgerald have releases on the same label?” Thankfully the internet sorted me out. But I still dream that they can be one and the same. So the non-Decca label has released a whole slew of post-punk albums.

This is a repressing, obviously. This pressing was released in 2010, issued by Matador Records with Ace of Hearts. This was the only album to be released under the band’s original line-up. Of course their EP, Signals, Calls and Marches, often gets more attention. Maybe rightly so as several of the band’s most recognisable songs. Vs is often described as a more “complicated” album compared to Signals, and I don’t think that is meant to be either a compliment or a critique.

Certainly Vs lacks the same hooks that their EP did, but if you enjoy a more layered form of music, you might even find yourself enjoying the full-length more. That being said, so much of that familiar guitar sound is still here. Mission of Burma have that quality that means you couldn’t possibly ever confuse them with any other band.

Vs is about as manic and special as you could imagine it to be. Though if you only half-listen, it can be an album that almost seems one-noted (which it isn’t in the slightest).  This is also an album that can be pretty difficult to put on a timeline. It certainly never sounds dated like it’s forever stuck 1982.

I bought this when I there seemed to be endless amounts of repressing of old post-punk albums coming out. When I previously wrote about Black Tambourine’s re-release, I spoke about veering into the path of buying new vinyl over buying used records in shops. I do have to admit that this was a pretty brief but violent phase.

All of this was due to the amount of great stock choices at the Exclusive Company on by Brady Street in Milwaukee. I suppose it’s not too surprising, really, because most cities often carry a high quality of music at independent record stores.

I always found Mission of Burma’s short career to be sad. Their end came in 1983 when Roger Miller’s tinnitus worsened. While they later reformed almost two decades later, it’s those years that form a rather large void with many thoughts of “what could have been.” But thankfully their early releases are so great and so important that I wouldn’t trade them for anything else.

Spin It Sunday Pt. 2

Welcome to the intergalactic world of Gary Numan and his Tubeway Army. It’s Spin it Sunday and I’m indulging in 1978’s Tubeway Army.

Side A

This album is what I would consider a rather fast moving album. Free of clutter and un-needed brush: it moves through each track without hesitation. The first two opening tracks “Listen to the Sirens” and “My Shadow in Vain” create one of the best openings of any post-punk album (or should we call it synth-pop?).

At this point in Numan’s career, there’s a lot less originality. Fairly standard funk bass-lines, but Numan’s astounding voice stands between him and everyone else. If you’re familiar with Numan’s career, there are subtle hints of his signature synth sound that comes through distinctly on certain tracks like “Something’s in the House.”  Sometimes looking backwards on a musician’s career is the best way to look at them.

When the album finally creaks onto “Every Day I Die” side A is slowing to stop. It’s not great. But the good news is, a Sci Fi feature will be on Side B.

Side B

“Steel and You” is a gem on the album. Particularly for it’s lyrics: “Just my steel friend and me. I stand brave by his side. This machine is all I live for.” My boyfriend is off on about Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. I’m assuming this is what this track is supposed to make us think about. You know, “Look I’m in a space ship with only aliens and robots as friends!”

I say it’s more atmospheric. Boyfriend says menacing. Side B is getting samey. Not in a great way. “Are You Real?” is making everyone (all two of us) cringe slightly. Not saying that there are plenty of amazing stand alone tracks. Maybe we’re too busy thinking about chocolate souffles.

Unfortunately, the space exploration of the album only picks up at the last two tracks. “Zero Bars (Mr. Smith)” has us searching through asteroid belts once more before turning out for the night.

On a final note, Tubeway Army isn’t that solid of an album, but it’s certainly a promising debut that lead way to the classic Replicas. Definitely worth a listen for a trippy space ride, but maybe it’s best just to stick to Earth.

Gary Numan’s new album “Splinter” is out October 15.