So I ask Tom which Mission of Burma songs he’s heard. Oh, ‘Revolver’ and some other ‘famous’ one, he replies. (Probably that ‘Academy Fight Song’ thing.) Why don’t you like them, I ask? Oh, their tunes aren’t much cop, he offers; ‘I couldn’t see what was so interesting about their music.’ I shelve my stunned disbelief for a minute, because it’s easy to see that folks not really tuned into the Amerindie thing won’t be able to appreciate Mission of Burma’s finer points. (And, as much as I like the records, they just don’t SOUND that good.) So blah blah blah, and then I mention to Tom that I’m going to see Mission of Burma TWICE this weekend (on Friday evening & Saturday afternoon) — perhaps it’s a bit of overkill, but there’s a good chance that they’ll never get together again. Of course, now I sound like a Kiss / Eagles / Fleetwood Mac fan, which brings me to:

TomFT26: hooray for 80s nostalgia
popshots75: Indeed. Is it nostalgia, though, if you weren’t there?
TomFT26: yeah – its just even sadder
popshots75: Feeling frisky, are we?
TomFT26: heh, no. its just i dont think mission of burma touring again and the human league touring again deserve much different treatment.

Oh, no, Tom, but that’s where you’re wrong (sorta). The Human League are bonafide — at least, they were, once upon a time. They’ve had a taste of success, seen the world, hung a few platinum records on their wall, rocked the words of many a kid. Mission of Burma — they haven’t been so lucky; hell, their lead guitarist / singer was struck with tinnitus from playing too loud. What kind of sick joke is that? Influencing a large number of kids to pick up a guitar and do what comes naturally is all fine and good, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Critics often say that such reunion tours are nothing more than an opportunity to relive past glories, make sure there’s no meat left on the corpse, bulk up the IRA before returing to the cabana for another pina colada. It’s a chance for folks to live in stasis, return to their halcyon days, see their idols again (or for the first time). For groups like the Mac or Kiss or even the Human League, it’s a return to glory days. What happens when a group never had those glory days? The Human League have a niche on countless 1980s retrospectives; they’re as much a part of that decade as Duran Duran or legwarmers. Mission of Burma (in the eyes of the almighty dollar) is reduced to a track on some K-Tel compilation and a massacre at the hands of Moby.

To be totally impartial, Tom’s right; Mission of Burma’s return shouldn’t be revered any more than any other group strapping on their guitars and giving it another go. The same frission enjoyed by those in-the-know scenesters watching Roger Miller ravage his guitar to the tune of ‘Mica’ or ‘The Ballad of Johnny Burma’ is no different than what most folks felt seeing Nicks & Buckingham rip into ‘The Chain’, or watching Don Henley & Glenn Frey exchange icey stares during Joe Walsh’s guitar solo in ‘Hotel California’. Talk all you want about ‘punk rock’, ‘integrity’, ‘aesthetic principles’, even ‘DIY’ — history has a way of forgetting those qualities when plotting the Big Picture.

The closest I ever came to this feeling was seeing Wire on their equally improbable reunion tour in 1999. There they were, older, slower, deliberate — not what I expected, of course (only being aware of their 1st two albums at that point, completely unaware of their move towards a withdrawn, sterilized, mechanized ideal). Honestly, it was a bit disappointing. I got ’12XU’ and ‘Mercy’, but not the way I wanted them.

That’s the problem with reliving nostalgia — it’s never as ideal as you’d like it to be. But that’s only if you want to go back to the past, completely ignoring the tens of years long since passed. I imagine most of the people going to these shows aren’t too dissimilar from myself — this is a chance to maybe catch a glimmer, a spark, some sign of what has become a myth. Looking at this picture of Roger Miller (taken during one of the NYC shows), I don’t see a middle-aged man playing music that’s beyond his grasp, some pathetic jerk trying to turn back the clock. I see the seed of a passion that has gripped and inspired many people, a passion that brings them all to pay their respects to this music and the ideas that brought it to life, ideas that can’t be squelched by any amount of cynicism or doubt.

I hear the sound of marching feet.