Moss Icon

January 13, 2010

If you read this regularly (which no one does) then you’ll know that a while back I did a short profile on Black Flag.  I said in that post that I’d be doing occasional profiles on influential bands, which so far I haven’t got around to doing.  But if you’ve been wondering ‘when is Nathan going to do another profile on an influential alternative band?’ (you haven’t) then you can stop wondering now.  Because what you didn’t realise when you started reading this is that this very post is a profile of influential alternative band Moss Icon!  Isn’t that exciting?

Moss Icon were a fairly short lived band, they were only active between 1986 and 1991 (being awesome and then burning up in a short space of time seems to be something of a trend for influential alternative bands).  They were one of the first bands playing music which came to be known as ’emo’.  No, not that kind of emo, this stuff is good, as you’ll find out in the lecture I’ll give you if you ever mention emo to me.  In fact, we’ll take a break here for…

***A POTTED HISTORY OF EMO!!!***

Emo (originally known as emocore, short for emotional hardcore if you couldn’t guess) came about in the summer of ’84 known to hardcore punk nerds like me as ‘Revolution Summer’, when hardcore punk bands got bored of playing hardcore punk.  Hardcore shows were becoming increasingly violent and were starting to attract more and more attention from undesirable groups such as neo nazi skinhead types, so some of the bands began playing more mellow, artistic, introspective music to try and attract a better class of people to their shows.  Some other things happened and emo was born.  Almost all of the softer side of modern alternative music, especially American indie, traces it’s roots back to Revolution Summer and emo.  Now back to Moss Icon…

Anyway, Moss Icon recorded a few EPs, one split LP with a band called Silver Bearing and one LP of their own, all of which were released after they had broken up.  Most of the EPs contained similar track lineups, overall they recorded about 20 distinct songs.  Four of the members regrouped recently, with the possibility of new songs being recorded in the future, which is exciting.

It’s hard to describe the sound of Moss Icon without just saying ‘go and listen to it’.  They were something of an anomaly, ahead of their time, but they’d still sound equally anomalistic if they were only just now releasing their music; I can’t think of any other band that sounds like them.  It is a testament to their music that nothing like it was made before and nothing like it has been made since.  The best description I can give of their sound is that of someone singing/reading Ted Hughes’ poetrywhile the rest of the band play folk/blues/jazz influenced indie rock.  The lyrics have a rhythmic, poetic feel to them and the instrumental work somehow imitates the scenes that they describe.

They are quite possibly my favourite band of all time and I’d really recomend that you at least have a listen to one of their songs.  Here’s a good place to start:

They’re a lot less well known than bands like Black Flag who the last profile was about, but they’re a shining example of the emo genre which has gone on to be so influential as a whole, and that’s why I think they’re an important band in the history of alternative music.

I’ll do another one of these sooner, it was fun to write.

Thanks for reading, feedback on the ‘article’ (it seems presumptuous to call it that really), or just on whether you liked the band, appreciated =]

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Black Flag

March 12, 2009

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Just because I find it interesting and there’s nothing else exciting to write about at the moment I’ve decided to do some short profiles on bands that have been influential on alternative music. I’ll probably do one periodically whenever I have the time/can be bothered/have the time and can be bothered.

Speaking of influential, it’s hard to think of any band which has been as influential on alternative music as Black Flag.  Black Flag completely paved the way for the scores of American Underground bands that followed them, making massive contributions to underground culture as well as alternative music and their status as musical legends and innovators has only grown in the two decades plus since they broke up.

Black Flag were formed in a time when there wasn’t much of a national indie touring circuit to speak of, so instead of just sticking around California and whining about it they got in the van and toured the hell out of the USA.  In 1984, for example, they were on the road for over 200 days, usually playing 2 shows a day, compared to the bands of today who tend to do one 2-3 week tour a year and a handful of other shows.  Now whether you like the music or not that’s the kind of dedication you’ve got to admire.

While the most recognizable figure to emerge from Black Flag is easily Henry Rollins any fan will tell you that the most important member by far was the guitar genius Greg Ginn (who owns SST, the label which released Black Flag’s records and the records of bands such as the Descendents, Hüsker Dü and Sonic Youth).  Ginn was the only member to appear in every incarnation of the band; overall around 17 different musicians made appearances over the years, and was the creative powerhouse behind their music.

The reason (in my opinion) that Black Flag were so influential is that for a straight up hardcore punk band they didn’t play much straight up hardcore punk; they veered from hardcore to spoken word to sludge to free jazz and back again.  I could sit here all day listing that musicians who have cited Black Flag as an influence on their music but instead I’ll just say that their music influences even some of the most popular bands around (Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance has said that Black Flag are his favourite band.  Not that I particularly like MCR but it’s a good example).

I haven’t really talked much about the music here (I did say it was a short profile after all) because I think that if you listen to it it really speaks for itself and I don’t think there’s much I can say to describe in any sense what makes it so great.  The sound quality isn’t the best and yes, a minority of it is just average hardcore punk, but when it’s good it’s incredible.

If you’re looking for a place to start I’d recommend Family Man, The Process Of Weeding Out and the title track from My War.

Thanks for reading =)