Mission of Burma's great second act

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Mission of Burma released only one album and an EP - 18 songs in all - before breaking up in 1983.

'This is the way we do it," Mission of Burma's Peter Prescott said from his drum kit at Boot & Saddle Thursday. "This is the way we've always done it. And that's all there is to it."

The Boston quartet, whose initial four-year run ended in 1983, are hardly the only band of their era to reunite in the new millennium. Bassist Clint Conley thanked the sold-out audience for choosing them over the Misfits show at the Electric Factory: "We know you have choices in heritage punk acts tonight."

But they're the only such band whose second act has proved more durable than their first. Although Mission of Burma was a mainstay of the Boston punk scene, they released only one album and an EP - 18 songs in all.

Since reuniting in 2002 - with singer-guitarist Roger Miller joining the other original members and sound manipulator Bob Weston subbing for Martin Swope - they've released four more albums and toured at the same consistent but leisurely pace.

Thursday's show wasn't in the service of any product; the band's most recent album is 2012's Unsound. There was only one new song, "Panic Is No Option," in the hour-long set.

But heritage act or not, the band never rested on their laurels, mixing new songs and old in equal measure. Although their sound has solidified in this most recent, stable stretch, it has never really changed - which is not to say Mission of Burma is treading water. They've just been waiting for everyone else to catch up.

In songs such as "This Is Hi-Fi," Miller's staccato, overtone-driven guitar sounded like the dit-dit-dah of a telegraph - Morse code from the future, like Matthew McConaughey's knocks in Interstellar.

Although they are approaching their 60s - barring Weston, who, as Miller noted, was not born when "Nu Disco" was written in 1979 - Burma's members retain a youthful playfulness on stage. It might help that the city's attitude has brightened, as well. "Philly used to be kind of a drag," Conley told the crowd. "In the olden days, it was really hostile. Your parents were very mean to us."

Like their quasi-contemporaries Wire, who recently came through town, Mission of Burma seems rejuvenated by the power of their music, with no trace or interest in being elder statesmen. If that meant a few missed notes here or a stray drumbeat there, it was worth it for the sense of life that flowed through their set.