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Moss Icon - Complete Discography

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Artist: Moss Icon

Album: Complete Discography

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Jul. 5, 2012

By the time I started going to punk shows in the early 1990s, Maryland’s Moss Icon was already talked about in proverbial hushed tones, a name I might see when flipping through records at a hall show or scrawled in ballpoint pen on the insert of a mix tape. Despite never releasing an LP and breaking up after three singles, Moss Icon had currency.

Does this compilation of late-’80s fits and starts sound a little of its time? Sure, but there isn’t much that sounds like this right now, either. There’s a little of The Fall in Jonathan Vance’s stream-of-consciousness delivery, and maybe a little harder-edged distillation of D.C.’s Revolution Summer, but if a band borrowed this sound wholesale tomorrow, it’d still manage to sound fresh.

You’re hearing the music of a punk band formed in the late 1980s. Is there talk of Reagan-era foreign policy here? Sure. Do the guitars and vocals grow cathartic? They do, indeed -- but it’s in unexpected, almost languorous ways. Despite Moss Icon’s connection to mid-Atlantic angst, this isn’t all compactly-delivered manifestoes and states of the union. At the middle of the discography comes “Lynburnum Wit’s End Liberation Fly,” which shifts gears musically and lyrically several times over the course of its 11-minute running time. You can get lost in it, even as certain lines and images -- “Lucifer’s wholly mended wing,” for one -- get under your skin, remain there, and emerge in late-night murmurings and subconscious rants.

And while there might be some similarities here to the likes of Slint and Lungfish, there’s also a lightness, a deftness to the delivery that keeps things frenzied. And listening to this now, there’s still catharsis aplenty to be found. “Gravity” holds the low end back until the very end, placing Vance’s voice tautly against a web of guitars; it’s a give-and-take atop a give-and-take, and there’s something reassuringly beautiful about it. Maybe beautiful is the wrong word. Vital is more like it.

By Tobias Carroll

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