After the first chorus of Moss Icon‘s “I’m Back Sleeping or Fucking or Something,” there’s a moment of unbelievable looseness. It’s chaotic but not particularly frightening—the rest of the song takes care of that. Singer Jonathan Vance is whispering, there’s a pick scrawled up a string, a lot of light cymbal work. It’s like they’re taking an improvisational break. Then it gets heavy, the initial bass plod returning and a tightly wound riff over some kind of Dada nonsense: “I’m back Sheridan”/ Your yellow, red, white, and blue/ Firemen came running. It’s one of the most potent songs I know, enough of a legacy for the Baltimore band who formed in the late ’80s. But they have more, and in a different direction. All of their songs—most notably including the terrific four from an Ebullition release—are included in a new discography from Temporary Residence, out tomorrow. Making the shift from “I’m Back Sleeping or Fucking or Something” to the jazziness of a song like “Moth” seems improbable at best, but they operated in a world very close to the one that birthed Minor Threat and then Fugazi, aggression transmuted into angularity. Still, Moss Icon was especially weird. “Moth” is seven minutes long, often propelling itself forward at a jarring pace before the repeated call that Vance is, Walking along on down the Avenue of the Americas/ My footsteps, two eyes and a head following my two arms and legs digging at the snow angel in the air. It sounds like spoken word. The song ends with a crunch, but it’s begun so lightly with talk of Your lover, she is hushed and she is torn away. How did we get here? There were some duds, sure, none of the songs on Lyburnum (Wit’s End) live up to the wild promise of “Sleeping,” but they all try to, a synthesis of so much that was happening in and around punk music at the time. If they had survived only as a document of a stepping stone, even that wouldn’t have been such a bad fate, but that’s not the case.
Stream: Moss Icon’s Discography