It's easy to assume that a band name like This Moment in Black History is the work of a few trust-funded white hipster kids, tongues firmly planted in their cheeks, fishing for some desperately craved attention. In reality TMIBH is a skull-rattling noise punk quartet hailing from Cleveland, one with a bio that boasts of underground music's "blackest rhythm section." While the music of TMIBH is fueled by an endless array of causes close to the band's collective heart—from dirty punk to Southern soul to free jazz—white kid irony is nowhere to be found here.
Last year's It Takes a Nation of Assholes to Hold Us Back—the title of which is a bratty ode to Public Enemy—is a blistering assault of jagged guitars, thumping drums, yelped vocals, and enough political punk lyrics to send Dick Cheney scurrying into his underground bunker. Recorded over a two-day period by Steve Albini, the record does without bells and whistles; it just sounds like a raw, timeless punk album—one that couriers the goods in frantic, hurried bursts—most songs falling shy of the two-minute mark. If there is an exception to their short song rule, it's the epic—clocking in at four-and-a-half minutes—"On Tour with Charlie Parker," which starts out as a rapid-fire blast of screeching vocals and guitar feedback, only to build into a noisy free-jazz breakdown. While divulging in some experimental skronk might not work for most bands that exist under the punk rock umbrella, the music of TMIBH feels loose, if not downright soulful, with influences that stretch far beyond the limitations of the scene they reside in. Says vocalist Christopher Kulcsar, "We're all music geeks. Lawrence [Caswell, the band's bassist] and I met in the most typical indie-rock fashion—at the college radio station—and there is a very wide variety of tastes within our band."
It Takes a Nation is a beaming monument to the various influences that artistically tug at the band, a group of individuals whose record collections extend further than what any predictable hardcore matinee merchandise table could possibly provide. Even on the band's blog, tour-time excitement is the thrill of pulling into the Stax Records museum in Memphis, or when they came across a studio mic once used by Al Green. And before they unleash the furious jabs of the blistering "Larry Pulled a Knife on Jesus," the band opens It Takes a Nation with "World B. Free," a freewheeling post-hardcore funk instrumental. It's this interplay—the bouncing funk nestled tight alongside the seething noise—that speaks volumes about the band's direction and their ability to write a thrilling punk song that clocks in under the 90-second mark.
Another aspect of TMIBH is their road-weary charm, a band unafraid to bring together performer and crowd, even if by force. Says Kulcsar, "I don't think I've gotten in a fight with anyone while we played, but I've definitely tried to." But it's not all swinging fists, as he elaborates: "Any good punk band is confrontational. I hate the audience and the artist being two separate things. Some people think that when the band is in the crowd it's confrontational, but I just see it as trying to get the crowd involved."