I thought the resurgence of old school punk died out long ago when acts like the Beastie Boys and Circle Jerks were dipping into this newly rediscovered well of a once discarded aesthetic. But It Takes a Nation… defies this notion by supplying us with a pure dose of kick ass hardcore that makes you want to dust off your 7-inches and immediately start a circle pit. The effort is explosive and raucous; a performance steeped in hilariously militant protestation. But within the lyrical absurdities and incessant grumbling, This Moment in Black History achieves a mighty feat: they succeed at making old school sound new again, without deviating too much from the original formula.
With an album title that parodies the 1988 classic from Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Assholes to Hold Us Back stands as an anger-fueled act of defiance against all the perceived ills of the world. Chris Kulcsar’s pleading howls are both beautiful and disturbing as he bemoans subjects such as technology, the government and religion. There is a bit of slapstick involved in Kulcsar’s compositions (think Murphy’s Law, not Mike Watt) but his intensity and aggressiveness is both abundant and sincere. Although barely decipherable, there are veiled political references and racial themes.
There is a brief introduction before the madness begins. After a well-selected sample, This Moment in Black History launches into “Larry Pulled a Knife on Jesus”, a cacophony of hardcore riffs and obnoxious squeals. However, the band does not let up there, as we are treated with a steady barrage of one chaotic anthem after another. “On Tour with Charlie Parker” is a deceivingly long song that features an onslaught of buoyant riffs and a blaring synth before quickly devolving into a hardcore pseudo-jam that may, or may not, be an improvisational tribute to the “Bird”. The gang vocal-inflicted “God on Drugs”, is a pure old school romp which serves as the band’s homage to the Cleveland punk scene which spawned them. And on “Let’s Talk About Civil War”, Kulcsar defiantly describes the undetected disobedience of a soldier while pure bedlam looms in the background.
Perhaps adding credibility to the project is the masterwork of veteran noisemaker Steve Albini whose efforts lend a resounding, powerful aspect to each selection. With a few classics already under his belt (Nirvana’s In Utero and The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa) the name recognition alone adds some allure to an already enticing prospect. But Albini’s efforts do not go unnoticed; in addition to the belligerent vocals he adds emphatically layered, abrasive guitars with a slew of synthetic devices. This is an ambitious undertaking and it comes off without sounding predictable or gimmicky.
This Moment in Black History was one of the many acts traversing New York City’s Lower East Side this past fall, vying for attention during the annual CMJ music fest. And although this obscure act from Cleveland has not yet garnered much attention, It Takes a Nation… may have what it takes to get them noticed. There is an undeniably jarring aspect of their music and the approach is unique enough to make them seem like visionaries in the stagnant world of hardcore punk.