“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today’s guest is no stranger to these pages or the radio show, and I’m a big fan of his work. Rob Moss who I first admired after hearing Artificial Peace on the seminal 80s Dischord “Flex Your Head” comp has a second whipsmart album as Rob Moss and Skin-Tight Skin called “Now With More Rockets” (Rock On Records) and it’s as high octane as the title suggests.
Following on from 2020’s autobiographically named “We’ve Come Back To Rock ‘n’ Roll” (Rob had been away from music for some 30 years), it continues the theme of bringing together a ton of guests to make an alchemy of tightly wound, passionately crafted, shredding and soaring rock music.
This time the roll call of collaborators includes Martha Hull of The Slickee Boys, significant because it was watching them back in the day that first convinced Rob that he wanted to form a band. And also since his music today is less straight-laced, super serious DC hardcore punk and more proto-punk and life affirming astral rock, reaching for the stars and having fun doing it like his Slickee Boys heroes of yore.
That’s not to say this is in any way looking in the rear view mirror, Moss has his telescope out and his jetpack on, sure it’s fun, but it’s lazer focused, and right now sounds like nothing else. Which is why it’s right at home on Velvet Sheep. Welcome back, Rob Moss and Skin-Tight Skin!
Rob first started out playing bass and writing songs in 1979. He teamed up with Brian Gay (who later became the original bassist for Dischord band Government Issue), in a band called The Indians. They later became Assault & Battery who were involved in an infamous show featuring a bill including Minor Threat, S.O.A. and Red C, at the Bethseda YMCA where the venue shut the power and the police showed up with dogs.
Rob’s third band was Artificial Peace, whose recording session at Inner Ear with Ian MacKaye ended up with three songs on the aforementioned “Flex Your Head” and all the 17 tracks cut that day widely shared as a tape before a proper release on Dischord in 2010. Artificial Peace also opened for Bad Brains in NYC, Black Flag in Baltimore and caused “slam dancing in the cafeteria” at their (literal) old school with most of DC’s hardcore royalty in attendance.
Earlier this year, Alona’s Dream Records released a live album, recorded at the height of their infamy, 40 years to the day earlier – called “Live at The Wilson Center | June 25, 1982” and it’s raucous and righteous, and I’m defo gonna play more on the VS radio show. It was also accompanied by a book of photos and essays called Artificial Peace in Words & Images featuring writing from the likes of Brendan Canty (Rites of Spring/Fugazi), Ian MacKaye (Teen Idles/Minor Threat/Fugazi), friend of these pages Danny Ingram (Youth Brigade/Dot Dash etc) and more.
After Artificial Peace broke up, came a stint in Government Issue (another “Flex Your Head” / Dischord band). Rob had known the original drummer in GI, Marc Alberstadt since kindergarten, and he slotted in like hot butter, joining on their summer 1983 tour.
Rob left Government Issue in the fall of ’83 after getting admitted as a student to Boston University and at the time he thought his sonic odyssey was over.
That was until he picked up a guitar again in 2016.
He managed to co-opt an impressive black book of musicians to put together “We’ve Come Back To Rock ‘n’ Roll” (deep breath): Bob ‘Derwood’ Andrews (Generation X), Brian Gay (Government Issue), Nels Cline (Wilco), Don Fleming (Velvet Monkeys), Franz Stahl (Scream, Wool, Foo Fighters), Mario Monterosso (Tav Falco’s Panther Burns), Spit Stix (Fear), Dave Lizmi (The Four Horsemen), Billy Loosigian (Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band), Stuart Casson (Smash Fashion) and Marshall Keith (The Slickee Boys), among others.
It was the first time he’d sung lead vocals, and being the perfectionist he knew he could get it even better (though personally I bloody loved it).
In 2021 he started writing the new record “Now With More Rockets”.
This time the net of contribs was cast even wider. The core was his mate Dwight Reid on bass (who’d convinced him he could record his new material in his home studio in the first place) and Danny Frankel (Lou Reed, John Cale, Nels Cline, Rikki Lee Jones, K.D. Lang, Fiona Apple, Marianne Faithful, Beck) on drums, but the other guests including Abaad Behram (Johnny Bombay and the Reactions, Razz), Bob Balch (Fu Manchu), Doug Wieselman (Lou Reed, John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards, Laurie Anderson, etc.), Gil Leigh (High Llamas — the US band, not Sean O’Hagen’s), Glenn Kowalski (AKA, Jake Whipp of White Boy, Seven Door Sedan), Greg Strzempka (Raging Slab), Joey Cola (Sorrows), Ken Moss (Acrylix, Seven Door Sedan), Kim Reynolds (Snakebite), the aforementioned Martha Hull (The Slickee Boys, Martha Hull and the Steady Jobs, D. Ceats, The Afrika Korps), Razzle Markel (Not Dead Yet), Sal Baglio (The Stompers, The Amplifier Heads), Scrote (AKA, Angelo Bundini – the producer behind Celebrating David Bowie featuring Todd Rundgren, Adrian Belew and others), and Wes Tabayoyong (Savage Beliefs).
That’s quite a register to call out – imagine Mr. Lorensax from Ferris Bueller calling that out…
Rob was there too. He’s the nexus, the axe-wielding visionary.
Lyrically “Now With Added Rockets” strafes from literally riding on donkeys (“A Donkey”) to wearing the results of sweat shop labour, high and mighty on heels (“Bloody Shoes”) and there’s even a paean to a would-be real-life hero who ended up being cruelly vilified (“Richard Jewell”), it’s truly ear-catching.
Sonically it coruscates from elbows-out party (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Ralphs”) to curveball swamp rock (“Ink Ball Smoke”) with its double time outtro rising vaporously from the Delta.
I wondered if “Ralphs” were equivalent to the “Rodneys” in The Stranglers’ “Duchess” but apparently it’s about a real grocery store (“Ralphs”) in Hollywood in a neighbourhood of cheap apartments and rock clubs meaning a lot of bands lived in the vicinity – hence “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ralphs”. Which is a measure of the uniqueness of this whole Rob Moss & Skin-Tight Skin shebang – I mean, there’s probably not another song or mention of a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ralphs” in the whole universe right?
For me another highlight of “Now With Added Rockets” is the pleasing fake ending and reprise to album closer “I’m On A Rocket Ship (Heading Back Home)” just to keep you on your twinkle toes, and the fairy tale like reimagining of “Rip Van Winkle ’85” to winkle pick your grey matter.
I’m also a big fan of previous single “Red Beans & Gasoline” which is like “House of the Rising Sun” if the rising sun was a mushroom cloud (which of course we all pray never to see in real life, but it’s great as a Skin-Tight Skin inspired incandescent fever dream).
“Now With Added Rockets” is truly a thrilling ride into the unknown and I’m here for it. As I am for Rob’s latest pop pick, so without further ado here’s the Rob Moss And Skin-Tight Skin “song for ewe”…
“Walk On Water” by Affiliate Links
I first heard of the Affiliate Links album, Enough Light, through Don Valentine’s music review site, I Don’t Hear a Single, and I put it on my list for stuff to get on Bandcamp Friday. Affiliate Links is the music project of Bradley Davis (who was in the Toronto-based instrumental post-rock band, Fresh Snow, among others) and not to be confused with another Brad Davis (the country guitarist/singer-songwriter who’s performed with Marty Stuart and Earl Scruggs).
Bradley’s sound on his album, “Enough Light”, is simultaneously loud and gentle. That uniqueness is what caught my attention. It’s why I’ve been listening to it nearly every day lately, and why I want other people to hear it.”
THANKS SO MUCH TO ROB MOSS.
Rob’s new album, Now With More Rockets, is available at the link below