When Mission of Burma ended in 1983 only drummer Peter Prescott continued to play loud rock music. On The Bright Orange Years, his trio with bassist Jeff Weigand and guitarist Jon Williams takes energetic folk-rock with sturdy Midwest melodies and overplays it into a punky mixture of Cheap Trick and Hüsker Dü. The record’s sound could be sharper, but there’s no mistaking the talent in songs like “Jak,” “Balancing Act” and “Cornfield,” which pitches a noise piano solo into the mixture.
The ghost of Burma looms in Williams’ mindblow guitar on All-Night Lotus Party, a less tuneful album (credit Prescott’s reduced music-writing role) that is still pretty rewarding. The Suns reach into new regions with “Cans,” a crypto-rockabilly raveup; “Walk Around,” a Ramonesy punk rush; “Sounds Like Bucks,” a distorted crypto-ballad; and “Dot on the Map,” a Wall of Voodoo-styled slice of Americana gone off the deep end.
Prescott reclaimed creative control on the Suns’ third album, which also unveiled a new incarnation of the trio. (Williams and Weigand left in March ’87.) Although lyrics continue to reflect Lotus Party‘s fascination with the social and cultural mundanities of rural life, Bumper Crop more closely resembles the first LP in song, sound and style.
Adding trumpet, found-sound samples and guest contributions of sitar, violin and cello to the trio’s bag of tricks, the uneven Farced has more instrumental depth, if not artistic subtlety, than the previous records, and even fits an industrial-strength noise assault (“Belly Full of Lead”) into the usual roaring post-pop. But the band’s melodic sense comes and goes; too many of the songs dissolve into a cacophonous blur.
David Kleiler, a guest on Farced, became the Suns’ cool new guitarist (and astute songwriter) on the extremely consistent — in both style and quality — four-sided Thing of Beauty. Recommitting itself to wall-shaking tuneful overdrive, the trio antes up nineteen fine new numbers (with clearly audible clever lyrics) plus a great cover of Eno’s “Needles in the Camel’s Eye” that both credits and honors an obvious inspiration.