Currently based in Massachusetts, musician/songwriter Rob Moss is the Rip Van Winkle of American Hardcore.
As ground floor as you could be possibly be in the Washington, D.C. underground music scene in the early ’80s, Moss provided backing vocals (including the “moooo!” in the intro to the track “Cowboy Fashion”) on Government Issue’s 1981 Legless Bull EP – the fourth-ever release on Dischord Records. As a bassist, he cut his teeth in the bands Assault & Battery and Artificial Peace before joining Government Issue for its 1983 summer tour. (For an ear-melting example of Moss-era GI, check out the recording of the band’s July ’83 gig at CBGB on the Government Issue Live Bootleg Series Bandcamp page.)
And then… nothing. For a long, long time.
It would more than 35 years before Moss returned to music after devoting decades to educational, career and family pursuits. When he finally resurfaced, it was to serve as the singer and guitarist for his own project, Rob Moss and Skin-Tight Skin. His surprise reappearance yielded 2020’s appropriately titled We’ve Come Back To Rock ‘n’ Roll, a 14-song album that boasted 14 different lead guitarists and featured guest spots by musicians from Generation X, Government Issue, Wilco, Velvet Monkeys, Dinosaur Jr, Scream, Foo Fighters, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, Fear, The Four Horsemen, Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, Smash Fashion, D.C. cult legends The Slickee Boys and many others.
Bolstered by a much beefier production than its predecessor (and also helped along by Moss’ overall stronger vocal and musical performances), the recently released Now With More Rockets finds the resurrected rocker joined by another who’s who of guest lead guitarists ranging from Fu Manchu’s Bob Balch to Greg Strzempka of the criminally underrated Raging Slab. Vocally, Moss falls somewhere between Lou Reed and Shriekback’s Barry Andrews with shades of Camper Van Beethoven’s David Lowery thrown in for good measure. Musically, the album is an eclectic mix of sounds that runs the gamut from Roots Rock (“Rip Van Winkle ’85,” the fantastic “Ink Blue Smoke”) to something that resembles a mashup of The Pixies and Girls Against Boys but somehow smooths out and streamlines both bands’ esoteric approaches without sacrificing any of their sonic quirkiness (“A Rocket Ship To You,” “I’m On A Rocket Ship [Heading My Way Back Home]”).
If you’re looking for a loud and fast Hardcore album based on Moss’ exploits in decades past, then Now With More Rockets isn’t for you. But if you admire the spirit of artistic evolution that is so characteristic of the city that spawned the man’s initial run (think Embrace and Rites of Spring over Minor Threat or Deadline), then this record will make perfect sense to your ears. Let’s hope Moss keeps going and we don’t have to wait until 2057 for his next one.
Now With More Rockets is available at Bandcamp.
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