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by Mike Corigan and Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Mission of Burma & lt;/a & The Obliterati 4 1/2 STARS & r & The Obliterati (Matador) is album No. 2 following Mission of Burma's 2001 resurfacing after 18 years on ice. Remarkably, nothing has been lost during the lull, with guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley and drummer Peter Prescott sounding every bit as consistent -- and ferocious -- as they did during their mythic and all-too-brief initial run.

Tradition is destiny, as this Boston band continues to create raw, percussive, yet amazingly atmospheric avant-rock from the same template, using a relatively limited sonic palette and sophisticated lyrical constructs. Here, as in 1982 (when it represented the high-water mark of American post-punk), Mission of Burma makes no compromises and absolutely no overtures to popular trends, fortune or fame. With biting social commentary and challenging, dynamic arrangements, these guys slash, gouge, and pound away as if every moment were their last, with some of the smartest, most satisfying modern guitar rock on the planet as a handsome artifact. -- Mike Corrigan & r & Check Out: "Donna Sumeria"

Dixie Chicks & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Taking the Long Way & lt;/a & 3 1/2 STARS & r & After a rough couple of years, Taking the Long Way proves why the Dixie Chicks are among the best acts around. At least that's how it feels after the first three tracks. If the CD ended there, it'd be five stars, but it goes on for another nine so-so songs.

Today, most people agree with the Chicks' notorious assessment of the president, but I'm not so sure they needed to rub everyone's nose in it. "Not Ready to Make Nice" crackles with emotion, as Natalie Maines sings that she's "mad as hell." The Chicks have earned their chance to rail at the redneck Bush brigade in country radio, but I can't help thinking a little turning of the other cheek might have been a more powerful statement. Plus, people love the Chicks for their music, not their politics.

Rick Rubin overproduces for once, with too many guests and not enough fiddle and banjo. Maybe this record will put the Dixie Chicks in the mainstream, but I liked them as a country act better. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & Check Out: "Easy Silence"
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