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.