The six men and one woman in Human Sexual Response will mount the House of Blues stage Friday night in their first hometown reunion in five years — and perhaps their last public performance ever. According to members of the group, which formally disbanded in 1982, the all-too-human Humans may soon reach their natural limit at honoring the manic theatricality that made them a centerpiece of Boston’s New Wave/art-punk scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
“I think this will be the swan song,” says Dini Lamot, one of HSR’s four (count ’em, four) front vocalists. But Lamot doesn’t betray any remorse. Instead, he stresses the pleasure of returning to the stage for the first time since the Humans’ last House of Blues performance in 2012.
“Everybody’s so upbeat about the way the band sounds. So it’s pretty magical. I bet it’s that way for most musicians that maybe have taken breaks and not played continuously and gotten back together. It’s like riding a bike.”
Maybe. Or maybe the magic speaks to the particularities that make HSR enduring for both bandmates and fans. With typically gleeful perversity, the 2012 reunion celebrated the group’s original breakup 30 years before, easily selling out all 2,500 tickets.
“Instead of looking out at a sea of Revlon-blue-black hair, we looked out at a lot of white,” Lamot says with a laugh.
“I’ve seen them play many times and the last they did in 2012 was one of the best,” says Jan Crocker. Together with his friend and co-producer Ben Bergery, Crocker filmed many of the original punk and New Wave bands in the late ’70s and early ’80s and now runs Kino Digital Video, a Web storehouse of old band clips and new essays.
“Seeing them play was almost like reading this great, racy novel,” Crocker recalls of HSR back in the day. “Who else could you come out and find them dressed as nurses, or covered in mud and leaves from head to toe? The Humans never disappointed.”
The performance-art outrage may speak to the core members’ background in Boston’s gay-friendly creative undergrounds. Lamot and his life partner and co-vocalist Windle Davis both attended Boston art schools in the 1970s. Fellow vocalist Casey Cameron was a Coolidge Corner neighbor who became so enthralled with Lamot and his friends’ bohemian lifestyle, she moved in and quit her editing job at Little, Brown (the publisher of a best-selling book that gave her the idea for the band’s name). And Dini’s older brother Larry Bangor moved East after graduating from Marquette University to join the creative enclave, bringing a gift for elaborate home movies, and, eventually, for songwriting.
The four friends found imaginative release in a variety of projects before deciding to form a rock band, just as creative forces across the Western world coalesced in the punk-rock explosion.
After some false starts, the four eventually recruited three young backing musicians who could help them cash in artistically and commercially: bassist Chris Machlachlan, drummer Malcolm Travis (later of Bob Mould’s trio Sugar), and sharp, fast guitarist Rich Gilbert (who later played with Wilco and Frank Black, among others, and now performs with his wife, Eileen Rose).
The resulting sound, developed over months of continuous rehearsals, recalls the spastic energy and martial rhythms of Devo and Talking Heads, combined with a distinctive four-vocal interplay and Bangor’s associative lyrics, which channel naughty jokes, flamboyant desires, punk outrage, and the philosophical musings of an anxious outsider.
“Larry used to say, ‘I want people to dance in nightclubs at night about the things they worry about during the day,’ ” Cameron says. “A lot of the things we chose as themes in our songs were outcroppings of what was happening in the social tableau at the time, you know?”
“Everything is multifaceted,” Windle Davis says. “I think Larry is a genius at expressing more a feeling than a literal story.”
The band released two albums, the hit generating “Fig. 14” and the darker, more ornate “In a Roman Mood” (re-releases will be available at Friday’s show). Highlights include the innocently ambitious trademark hit “Jackie Onassis,” the mournful “Anne Frank Story,” the proudly dorky “Cool Jerk,” the oddly regal horror show “Land of the Glass Pinecones,” and, most complex of all, the underground favorite “What Does Sex Mean to Me?”
‘Instead of looking out at a sea of Revlon-blue-black hair, we looked out at a lot of white.’
“It’s a SOCIAL song: We’re all a part of this. What are we doing?” Larry Bangor says. “We were very much if anything a confrontational band.”
What’s in store for their next and possibly last creative confrontation? “We like to always have a few surprises,” Dini Lamot says. “So there are a few up our sleeves for the fans.”
HUMAN SEXUAL RESPONSE
With Unnatural Axe
At House of Blues, Boston, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. 888-693-2583, www.ticketmaster.comFranklin Soults can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @fsoults.