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When F. Scott Fitzgerald said “There are no second acts in American lives,” he wasn’t counting on Mission of Burma. The Boston band’s first act was legendarily influential, as it burned its way through a brief career at the dawn of the 1980s and formed the bridge between American punk and ’80s college rock until their massive roar quite literally destroyed guitarist Roger Miller’s hearing, causing them to disband in 1983.
They reconvened ten years ago and entered into their second act, reemerging into a music scene where they were now not just a band but revered as living legends. To this date, nothing in Mission of Burma’s second act has done anything to challenge that status. They’ve released three albums with a fourth on the way (Unsound, out next Tuesday on Fire Records), and each has further cemented the band’s reputation for being able to engage the brain at the same time they pummel it with a sledgehammer – Mission of Burma’s ability to be simultaneously brainy and brutal has always been their most defining characteristic.
As the title of “Second Television” suggests, the song is a tip of the hat to one of their inspirations and one of their few peers in the influence department, and it’s a wholly reverent and appropriate tribute. In many ways, Mission of Burma were the “second Television.” Television ignited the punk movement in America when they persuaded Hilly Kristal to let them play their artsy, intellectual garage rock at his club, CBGB. A few years later, Mission of Burma ignited the American post-punk movement when they married Television’s artiness to the raw energy of those other CBGB greats, The Ramones.
To underscore Misson of Burma’s debt to Television, Miller threads a ringing guitar line through “Second Television” that’s reminiscent of the livewire interplay between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd on classic albums like Marquee Moon and Adventure. It’s a wonderful touch to an excellent track, and an appropriate salute from one group of legends still inspiring younger bands to the legends who inspired them in the first place.
Click here to listen to Unsound on Spotify.