Moss Icon - Complete Discography (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Moss Icon

Complete Discography (2012)

Temporary Residence Ltd.

Some bands are great out of the gate. They ooze great albums, EP, singles and B-sides. Other bands take a while to achieve greatness. The pieces aren't quite in place at first, the influences are too obvious in the ouput, whatever. Post-hardcore/emo pioneers Moss Icon fall into that latter category, and therein reveals the central problem with Complete Discography. As a historical document, it can be interesting hearing the band evolve from a typical '80s hardcore group to a post-hardcore act ahead of the curve. But as a purely visceral listening experience, this collection is uneven.

Moss Icon formed in 1986 in Annapolis, Md., just far enough from D.C. to never truly garner Dischord's love and influence. The band released a handful of seven-inches before breaking up in 1991, although a posthumous full-length, Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly, followed three years later, as well as a rarities comp. While Moss Icon never achieved the far reaching influence of its peers, a select few obviously still heard what was going on.

Complete Discography is important if for no other reason than it puts the Lyburnum material back in circulation. Recorded in 1988, the band had progressed incredibly by this point, crafting lengthy, emotional, dark diatribes. "Lyburnum – Wit's End (Liberation Fly)" is 11-and-a-half minutes long, but it goes through all these building movements, culminating in a massive religious freakout. Moss Icon was never into chestbeating hardcore, opting to tackle "big topics," whether it be confusion, religion or politics. "Lyburnum" captures the band at its most successful. The further it approaches post-hardcore, heralding the arrival of Fugazi and Girls Against Boys, the better.

But even Lyburnum is a little uneven, as some of the tracks come from the band's earlier seven-inches. "I'm Back Sleeping, Or Fucking, Or Something" is an early breakthrough, but "Mirror" is stereotypical '80s hardcore, only slower. Compared to Minor Threat or Government Issue, songs like that just don't do much. Unfortunately, Complete Discography closes with a trio of songs from that period. Frontman Jonathan Vance has a great singing voice--he shouts more than screams, letting his lyrics hit hard--but sometimes this early material comes off as a little too earnest.

One wonders what Moss Icon could have achieved had the members stuck it out for one more full-length. As is, Complete Discography operates as one-stop shopping and essential listening all the same.