As with the garage rock brand of ten years ago, the flavor of the early ’10s is turning out to be a crisp, warm but top-heavy, jam-tastic, and especially spaced-out brand of psychedelia. While groups of the Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra caliber are binging hard on replicating the cooler corners of tried-and-true classics like Revolver or The Notorious Byrd Brothers, this new psychedelia is proving to be far more than timely retromania.
You might be thinking it’s too early in the decade to start branding musical movements in such sweeping terms, and there’s an arguable point there. But for all those who can smirk at Buzz Feed’s nostalgia over Boy Meets World, let me give you a serious reminder of your age that validates my point: Next month will mark the 10th anniversary of Elephant by the White Stripes. A few months later will mark the 20th anniversary for Siamese Dream and In Utero – each qualifying as landmark statements that firmly established to the world (during their respective eras) that certain sounds weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
As we here who work for and listen to BTR are all too aware, sometimes the best verification of a genre’s staying power isn’t necessarily their heavyweight hitters but newcomers on the lowest ends of the dial who following the cues of bigger fish but still bring worthwhile left turns to the creative table.
With that, New Hampshire’s MMOSS is making a stellar bid to contend for a more grandiose spotlight in vying for an as yet unoccupied space between the trebling, organ-backed alt-country of Woods (both bands share the same drummer), the broader, astrological jangle of the Brian Jonestown Massacre (or Foxygen, if we want to stick with the new), and the inescapable influence of the aforementioned flagship acts.
Their second album for the noteworthy Burger Records, 2012’s Only Children, demonstrates unconventional growth on the foundation laid by their debut, i. Tracks like the endearingly campy “War Sux” and extended “Wander” stick to just that – wandering. But like a mid-morning journey through the New England forests from whence these burly dudes came, it’s less the precision of the performances and more the act of getting lost in their aura that’s compelling. Elsewhere through their woodwind mellotrons and classical guitar picking, the uncharted connections between late 60s psych and the earliest of prog are magnified on Only Children in ways that bands like Gemini sound like that long lost link between The Smiths and MBV.
Still, the band demonstrates an idiosyncratic flare for pop structure and hooks that match their talent for intoxicating atmospheres throughout Children, though proof of this talent may be found in greater abundance (yet smaller doses) on their first record. Hot nuggets like “Grow Down” typify one in the band’s handful of approaches to arrangement, intertwining droning stratocaster with chamber instruments – real ones, this time — fluttering in Hebrew scales.
Despite the distinctly San Franciscan connotations MMOSS tends to conjure in discussions among bloggers, journalists, and fans, there’s still an element of isolation about them, particularly on Only Children (now that I think about it, is that a double entendre?), that feels more akin to a colder, more Northeastern mentality. Like Woods, MMOSS’s output reflects the rural basement environment where they record their records. Though the fact of where their creative process is one of the few verifiable bits of knowledge anyone with an internet connection to glean from the band, it’d be hard to imagine them recording these records in any other environment if that weren’t true.
Though with Woods, this isolation is conveyed in the way almost all of their instruments resonate with the same muted whisper as their vocals. The listener is almost always left with the impression they go through great lengths to keep this balance, whereas MMOSS isn’t afraid to freak out, get loud, and let their rhythms bounce like tennis balls on steel sheets — all with what appears to be relative ease, even if they’re not as prolific as their siblings.
Looking into the future, it’s hard to tell if MMOSS has any substantial tricks up their sleeve we haven’t heard yet. As far as live performances go, the quartet should definitely be a priority for SXSW attendees, given their palpable momentum and clout among devotees of their counterparts. So far, they appear to be benefiting from gently growing word-of-mouth praise and sporadic approval from across independent media – always a better scenario for heading into the shit storm that is the annual Austin festival than being overwhelmingly hyped.
Here’s to hoping our approval doesn’t tip that delicate balance.
For more on MMOSS, check out their bandcamp page and tune into BTR’s Thursday podcast, hosted by DJ Lottie.