On Off On

Mission of Burma tonight at the Fillmore with Roger. Their first new record in 22 years, “On Off On,” and touring again. Expected the show to mostly showcase the new album, but heard tons from “Vs.” and “Signals, Calls, and Marches.” First set didn’t seem to cohere as well as last time we saw them, but something happened in the margins, and the second set soared. Stratmospheric. Check out the MTV trailer for a sip. Something sounded strangely familiar. A cover. Was it Cream? No, wait. Early Pink Floyd — something from Umma Gumma, or Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Have to figure this out. Never heard Floyd sound like this. The only other cover I know of Burma doing is a version of The Stooges’ “1970” on “The Horrible Truth About Burma.”

Sudden strange impulse to know how Burma would sound unplugged. Maybe with Conley on Mariachi bass, Miller on Spanish guitar, Prescott with Tito Puente’s drums. Or even tablas.

Disproportionate number of Moby scalps and Drew Carey glasses in the audience. First encore Penelope Houston jumped onstage. Second encore finished with a totally plugged-in “Max Ernst.” Just electrified.

Caught the last few pieces by Kinski, one of the openers. Some blend of Hawkwind, Spacemen 3, and Can. Psychedelic jam bands still exist (Kinski, not Burma), with modern electronics. And flute! Should have heard more.

Music: Pink Floyd :: Interstellar Overdrive

4 Replies to “On Off On”

  1. Perhaps it was a cover of Interstellar Overdrive from Piper at the Gates of Dawn?

    Psychedelic jam bands are cropping up like mushrooms these days—they have whole festivals of them

  2. Although psychedelic jam bands are everywhere these days, Mission of Burma could eat almost any of them for breakfast. Josh’s guess was a good one, but Mission of Burma’s Pink Floyd cover was actually “Astronomy Domine,” also from “Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” It took me until after last night’s show to figure this out, since as I told Scot, it’s been at least fifteen years since I’ve listened to that album. I wonder how long it’s been for Syd.

    For SF punk trivia fans, the Penelope Houston duet, also indecipherable at first, was a version of her “American in Me,” which dates back to her days with the Avengers, long before she became a folk-rock chanteuse and a teen idol in Germany.

    As far as other Burma covers, the boys used to do an epic version of Pere Ubu’s “Heart of Darkness,” captured on the then-posthumous 1985 live album “The Horrible Truth About Burma.” Burma have also been known to cover songs by long-defunct comtemporaries, notably the Dils’ “Class War” and the Wipers’ “Youth of America.”

    As last night showed again, Burma’s 19-year hiatus has shockingly little to do with nostalgia. Despite a few ragged edges, the two post-reunion Fillmore shows I’ve seen have been as uncompromising and vital as what I remembered from live performances in 1982 or 1983.

    Burma was never a “political” band in the sloganeering sense, at least unless you’re on a campaign to make Max Ernst a household name. But in these days of armchair empire and dubious Reagan nostalgia, an ominous sense of political foreboding was unmistakable in the show last night, down to the “No New McCarthy Era” sign taped to their amps. They’re political in the best George Clinton tradition (as in “think, it ain’t illegal yet”). Not bad for a bunch of artsy-fartsy intellectual punks with receding hairlines.


  3. Encyclopedia Brown, er, Roger — once again in evidence that you badly need a blog to call one’s own. Did you really stay up late playing old Pink Floyd LPs after a Burma show? That’s commitment.

    Listening now to the Horrible Truth for the first time. Fiery. I should have thought of the Heart of Darkness cover. 30 Seconds Over Tokyo would be another interesting Ubu cover.

    Since you bring it up, yes, I *am* on a campaign to make Max Ernst a household name.

  4. For covers, I’ll go with Roger Miller’s awesome “King of the Road” remake done during his solo career.

    Deux enfants sont menace par une Stratocaster.

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