Mission of Burma, bold and boisterous

Posted: February 11, 2014

Some bands are like sports teams - definitive traveling representatives of their cities' personalities. With each gig they play, the very best musical ensembles bring along every weird, proud taste their hometowns have to offer.

Few acts have been so connected to a city as Boston's Mission of Burma. Since the band's 1979 start and initial volley of such verifiable post-punk hits as "Academy Fight Song" and "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley, and drummer Peter Prescott have emboldened Boston's club scene and given it a vibe and reputation based on a sound fancifully art schoolish and dramatically angular without being tart or grandiose.

In a fashion, Mission of Burma were America's tough 1980s answer to the U.K.'s Gang of Four, but without the politics.

The Mission burned bright and out by 1983 (their ragingly loud volume was an issue for Miller), then reunited in 2002 and recorded new albums such as Unsound. On Saturday, they packed the First Unitarian Church, playing a bill with one of Philly's newer signature acts, Bleeding Rainbow.

One of the best aspects of Mission of Burma's set: It didn't stick to the old fan-familiars, though jittery, scorching songs such as "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" and "Secrets" - both from 1982's Vs. - were so far ahead of their time back then that their creepy roar, emotive singing (from Miller and Conley), and artsy aggression seem right on time for fussy 2014.

Though newer songs such as "1,2,3, Partyy!" were boisterously blunter than the band's usual, the Joy Division-like "Man in Decline" and "1001 Pleasant Dreams" took their time loudly unraveling through dense rhythmic interplay and tipsy, towering guitars.

In particular, mightily melodic moments such as "New Disco," with its restless lyrics ("I'm so tired of your personal grudge") and a brace of happily odd Beatles covers - "Rain," and "Paperback Writer," timely celebrating the Fab Four's 50th anniversary in America - were bold and loud as love.

Openers Bleeding Rainbow didn't waste time with theatricality or frantic soloing.

Instead, the band showed off some of the hard-pounding but poppy material (such as "Images") from its forthcoming album, Interrupt, which is filled with edgy, pointed arrangements and straight-ahead boy-girl vocals.

Yummy stuff.

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