Mission of Burma made exactly one full-length studio album before they took 19 years off. Since they reconvened a decade ago, they’ve made four. The amazing thing is that their post-reunion records are not just consistently terrific but increasingly terrific. This band was always built around skills that get better with age: idiomatic playing, idiosyncratic ideas about sound, very loud interactions based on very close listening. How they’ve managed to sustain their monumental energy — well, that’s a good question. It might have to do with having three songwriters who keep trying to top each other.
They’ve got a collective sound they worked out long ago: Clint Conley clawing meaty chords out of his bass and rasping the band’s slyest hooks, Roger Miller taking advantage of the least pop-like noises an electric guitar can make (when he’s not, say, paraphrasing “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?,” as he does on “Fell –> H20″), Peter Prescott hammering and howling and changing up the beat at every opportunity, tape manipulator/live engineer Bob Weston running interference. Like the good post-punks they are, they also like to break, or at least bend, their own formulas: See, for instance, Miller’s “ADD in Unison,” a constantly mutating string of splintery riffs that eventually piles on falsetto harmonies and Weston’s trumpet playing. And when more than half the songs on an album by a group that’s been together since the ’70s clock in under three minutes, you know they’ve got some serious discipline.