Friends, I want to tell you about a punk rock reunion that will not suck. The band in question, Boston's Mission of Burma (1979-'83), is every bit as "capital-I" important as the Velvets, Can, Television, the Fall, My Bloody Valentine, and Slint. To grossly oversimplify, these alterna-canonites took the basic structure of rock apart, stripped it down and added drone, jam, and/or noise-based elements, then glued it back together to make some new kinda sound--which everyone continues to steal from to this day.

What are they like? First off, they are brutally loud. So loud that they had to break up at the height of their game in 1983 'cause artsy singer-guitarist Roger Miller's tinnitus--the ringing in his ears--got so bad. To ward off further damage, Miller wears firing-range ear protection in concert now while drummer-yelper-philosopher Peter Prescott is encased in a Plexiglas "Popemobile."

MOB's music is a dense soup of opposing forces. The guitar is slashing but minimal; singer-bassist Clint Conley's playing is weirdly poppy and beautiful; the drumming's like Keith Moon playing everything at once. They wrote droning, complex instrumentals; dense, bash-and-flail, almost-hardcore songs; tightly coiled punk rock anthems; and gorgeous indescribable sounds as well. They wrote songs about feeling alienated that sound warmly compelling.

Their tunes sometimes had a million and one parts to 'em but they never succumbed to the heartless sway of prog or math rock. Burma have songs that could be so pretentious--their first single's about a painter associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, for chrissakes--but they almost never are. Never very popular outside of Boston, one of their best songs has the words, "Fame and fortune is a stupid game and fame and fortune is the game I play," sung over and over again. By all accounts, Burma's recent reunion gigs have been astounding and well attended, while Albert Maysles (who directed the Stones film Gimme Shelter) is doing a documentary film about this tour. MOB are a punk-rock fairy tale come true.

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