The past few years have shown bands don't stay broken up anymore, but after a reunion's novelty wears off, and the honeymoon with fans ends, what happens next? Bands like Pixies haven't figured it out yet, but all resurrectees could learn from Mission Of Burma. When the band released its first album in 22 years, 2004's ONoffON, it accomplished the impossible: a reunion record that was a vital part of the group's canon. (And not just because Burma only released one other full-length, 1982's Vs.) Reunion albums routinely suck, so few people expected much from ONoffON, but when it didn't suck, everyone rejoiced.
As the price of success, The Obliterati faces significantly higher expectations. Once again, though, Burma succeeds and surprises by playing to its strengths while moving forward. "The Mute Speaks Out" and "Nancy Reagan's Head" (featuring the great lyrics "I'm haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan's head / no way that thing came with that body") have well-executed experimental parts. An adventurous spirit pervades all the songs, especially more aggressive tracks like "Let Yourself Go," the two-chord attack of "Spider's Web," and the three-chord climax of "Careening With Conviction." Remarkably, singer-guitarist Roger Miller, singer-bassist Clint Conley, and singer-drummer Peter Prescott don't sound like they've aged. (Producer Bob Weston, the only non-original member, fills in for Martin Swope as tape manipulator.) A kid unfamiliar with Burma's history could listen to The Obliterati after Vs. and not realize that two decades separate the albums.
Even though The Obliterati stalls near the end (around "Is This Where?"), Burma's members sound like they're having a good time. If they felt pressure to top themselves, the album doesn't reflect it. Two albums into its second life, Mission Of Burma is making its legendary early days seem like a prelude.