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Burning Airlines

You'd have a hard time finding a nicer bunch of guys than Burning Airlines, especially one that can lay down this band's fat, heavy, complex-but-still-catchy melodies and rhythms. And while Burning Airlines eschew the designer threads of today's function-follows-fashion-runway rock-and-roll world, they still look decent in black jeans and work shirts.

But their sanity is debatable. Members Pete Moffet and J. Robbins first met as the rhythm section of DC's late, laudable Government Issue. After spending almost four years honing their razor-sharp songcraft and musicianship, that band dissolved. Moffet moved west and eventually started Wool with current Foo Fighter Franz Stahl and his brother Pete; Robbins stayed east and started Jawbox in the summer of '89, recruiting Bill Bardot to play with him a year later. In '96, Moffet split with Wool and returned to DC, where Jawbox was enjoying considerable success. The stage was set.

Robbins and Moffet worked on early Burning Airlines tunes during downtime in spring '97, the twilight months of Jawbox, soon to be joined by Bardot When Jawbox expired that April, the new band was born.

And there's nothing nicer to say about them than what Mission: Control! says itself. From the pounding, off-kilter Pixies-inflected groove of the featured "Carnival" to the hyperactive drum and bass skiffle of "Flood of Foreign Capital;" from the driving straight-fours of "Wheaton Calling" to the bouncing radio groove of "The Escape Engine," This is where all their previous years of experience has led them: a rookie collection to remember, assembled by veterans, made up of equal parts punk and rock, rage and romance, optimism and disgust.

There's something missing on Burning Airlines' 2001 follow-up, Identikit. Not passion, emotion, technique, or anthemic songwriting prowess. No, it's not any of these musical intangibles, it's bassist Bill Bardot, J. Robbins's longtime musical compadre, who has departed the BA ranks. However, he has been replaced by the able Mike Harbin. Overall, Identikit works in much the same vein as Burning Airlines' debut, without, perhaps, quite as much emphasis on melodicism. The driving, slightly mathy "Paper Crowns" is a classic piece of burly J. Robbins post-punk songwriting.