In the two decades since Mission of Burma dismantled, its members have risen to the rank of indie-rock legends. Fans who discovered their manic, unique destruction of rock precedents a few years too late got a second chance when the lineup reunited for concerts in 2002, and after 22 years of recorded silence, the band finally has its first major-label release. But can the comeback possibly match the expectations of fans who've waited so long? The answer is a loud, uncompromising yes. ONoffON succeeds largely because of a DIY sensibility that still sounds fresher than bands half its age.
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MoB wastes no time proving its diversity by pulling off hysteria in "Fake Blood," maturity in "Prepared" and off-kilter Americana in "Nicotine Bomb." ONoffON even makes radio-friendly songs seem effortless with "Wounded World," whose start-stop guitars, sing-along choruses and violin touches sound like a Bush song remodeled into something musically worthwhile. The best way to sum up the album, though, is to look at three '80s B-sides that finally made it to the album this go-round. "Hunt Again" and "Dirt," while meaty enough on this LP, suffer when compared with the original live incarnations. Bassist Clint Conley's voice has lost some of its desperation, while drummer Peter Prescott rarely (but noticeably) sags. Fortunately, the band clicks back into place on "Playland," a jagged composition sung by guitarist Roger Miller that has grown even more vicious in the past two decades. Age and restraint present themselves on the album in fragments, but those fragments aren't nearly enough to stop MoB from reaffirming its place in rock history.