The D.C. post-hardcore trio Burning Airlines traces its history back to Jawbox and Government Issue, but its stylistic genealogy includes Eno (whose "Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy" provides the title of the band's debut album), Echo and the Bunnymen (whose "Back of Love" the band covered on a 7-inch single) and XTC (whose influence is particularly strong on this album's "The Escape Engine").

Remarkably, the band's "Mission: Control!" is worthy of those influences. Like the best British art-punk, the album is intricate yet direct, experimental yet tuneful.

"Tilt and whirl, rise and plummet," sings guitarist J. Robbins in the opening "Carnival," and that's what the band's music does for the following 10 songs (not counting a sample-based interlude and a fragmentary hidden track).

The musical spins and spurts are not mere embroidery; they're integral to such eloquently unpredictable compositions as "Wheaton Calling" and "Sweet Deals on Surgery," which find their equilibrium in constant flux.

If the secret of a great song is its hummability, then Burning Airlines doesn't write great songs. Whatever it is that the band does, though, it's great at it.

Appearing Saturday at the Black Cat with Oswego and the Up On In.

* To hear a free Sound Bite from Burning Airlines, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8121. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)

CAPTION: Burning Airlines definitely gets off the ground with its latest album.