This Moment in Black History: Midwesterncuttalistick

[29 June 2004]

By Jason MacNeil

This Moment In Black History has very little to do with vignettes on Rosa Parks or the movement for racial equality. Rather, it is a Cleveland area group that formed from the ashes of other bands that are basically blips under the radar screen. This album, which they received help on from one of the better producers around in Jim Diamond (he of Detroit area White Stripes/Von Bondies/The Sights acclaim), is barely over a half-hour and has 17 songs. This means one of two things is about to happen—a ravaged punk rock rant broken into 17 sections or a body of work that makes the listener want to replay or look for future material eagerly. This Moment In Black History tends to fall into the latter category.

Starting with “Beans & Rice”, the band takes the garage sound of the Motor City and brings in a highbrow synthesizer to shore it up. The vocals aren’t incredible, but contain just enough feeling and swagger to make you interested, sort of like a cross between Jagger and David Byrne if such a beast exists. The guitars don’t add much, but talking about being in a rock and roll and disco milieu leads into the harder and far better “Are Lipps Our Inc.”. “It’s a secret, it’s a secret, it’s a secret you call my name”, states the chorus before settling into a garage-like demo blend of the Mooney Suzuki and Devo. The bridge veers close to distortion and basically sonic garbage, but the handclaps reel things back in nicely. Unfortunately, the ensuing “Paint Me A Picture” sounds like a bland Moldy Peaches cover, all over the place with little direction or thought put into it. The stream of conscious rant gives way to a brief solo that Flea or Fruiscante have done, oh, a zillion times before.

When This Moment In Black History tone things down, the rave-up pieces to their songs so much better, especially on the moody “Coupon the Movie”. The drum fills resemble Keith Moon, keeping the beat but shining when he has to. They also get into a nice groove that they are able to ride throughout the lengthy three-minute ditty. Far punchier and punk oriented is the rapid “Progress for Real”. Perhaps the first truly great song is the no-nonsense yet nonsensical “Last Unicorn”, which veers from the Hives to early Iggy. “Electric Grandlover” is a bizarre mix of electronic samples and primal guitar riffs that ooze sixties British rave ups a la the Yardbyrds. “It’s a robot, sign on the dot”, they sing before getting deeper into the bridge. Buddy Akita and Christopher Kulcsar share vocal duties while each play the guitar and moog, respectively.

The album does contain a series of miscues though, especially the waste of time that is “Blackeye Love”, which brings to mind something Blink 182 might start a song with before devolving into a guitar and sampled series of noodling, to absolutely nobody’s benefit. The saving grace is its length at only a half-minute. Another sonic adventure does work, though, during the spacey, psychedelica of “Today You Owe Me”, opening with the sound of bottles or something of the sort being put away or collected. The heavy metal-cum-Zeppelinesque vibe holds it own as it descends into a very quaint craziness prior to the equally insane vocals, culminating in a Syd-era Pink Floyd brush with insanity. The primitive “Rat Project” is another high moment that ends as quickly as it begins. Talking about taking pictures in the shower really doesn’t matter as the arrangement has that gorgeous hue of the Strokes to it. “I’m so goddamn young!” they exclaim before returning to the chorus.

Side “B” as they call the second half sounds fuller than the first half, resulting in more fulfillment for the listener. “Come Up” is a gem of a tune that mixes the simple guitar riffs against an almost tribal-cum-garage backbeat and rhythm. A couple of more tunes are left, but by this point the band and the album have a good deal of positives going for them—energy, intensity and, a few horrid instrumentals or interludes aside, a better than average record. Not a cookie-cutter record to be sure!

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/thismomentinblackhistory-midwestern/