If you had access to Moss Icon as a bright and very awkward late teenager who generally felt like the world was going to end at any minute, consider yourself lucky. Circa 1990, there wasn’t very much else like this and, if you were a somewhat younger bright and very awkward late teenager who had access to the vast swath of intelligent post-hardcore, emo, and screamo that came in Moss Icon’s wake, well, you might be even luckier. But for the 20 years or so since the Annapolis band’s breakup, Moss Icon has existed largely as a kind of myth, backed by a handful of YouTube videos and widely shared mp3s. At least until this year, when the band is back together for at least one show—at Austin’s Chaos in Tejas festival and not Charm City Art Space, sadly—and is getting its discography reissued via Temporary Residence.
When saying things like “screamo” and “emo” in the year 2012, it’s important to note that people are still making these genres of music in the same spirit and general aesthetic as they were 20 years ago. It’s not all what you hear on MTV or wherever the fuck future pay-to-play victims find out about things like Attack Attack! or whatever perfectly styled (hair, especially) band is currently occupying that position. It’s interesting to think about how different Moss Icon probably sounded when it started playing around the area in the late ’80s, a kind of anti-punk, but anti everything else at the same time. The song structures are weird; there are no templates. Sometimes they race forward in hardcore burn, Jonathan Vance’s vocals eviscerating themselves at points. At others, they’re just a free-associating speak-song. Guitarist Tonie Joy doesn’t play licks or hooks; he wanders with the same entrancing introspection as Vance’s vocalizing. The result is a kind of dark gray swoon that feels like being at the edge of the planet at the edge of time. Still.