It’s time someone said it: Mission of Burma’s reunion phase has eclipsed the band’s original era. Blasphemy? If we’re talking live performance, yes. But survey the post-punk giant’s recorded output—one (admittedly awesome) proper full-length for the ’79-’83 version compared with three excellent albums from the current incarnation—and it’s a mid-rounds TKO for new MoB over old, at worst.
In ways that matter most, new disc The Sound the Speed the Light plays like 2004’s ONoffON and 2006’s The Obliterati, building off the strange dichotomies laid out during the Bostoners’ early years—thorny/addictive song construction, opaque/urgent lyrics, brainy/aggressive overall vibe. Longtimers Clint Conley, Roger Miller and Peter Prescott pass the mic around over the course of 12 tracks—split into four three-song mini-suites—while ’00s-period sound manipulator Bob Weston (yeah, the Shellac dude) peppers in just the right amount of WTF-is-that-noise?
Individual highlights? Burma is always best consumed in total, full-hog ... oh, all right: If you must pluck songs, try playful leadoff cut “1, 2, 3, Partyy!” (partial refrain: “Drink only when drunken to/Plan out your drinks, then go out and drink your plan”), the borderline poppy “After the Rain” or the thundering “Comes Undone.” You’ll wind up wanting all of The Speed the Sound the Light anyway, in the same inevitable way the world will come to realize MoB 2.0 has officially trumped its vaunted predecessor.