PUBLIC SQUARE – This Moment In Black History (Smog Veil)
Wrap your mind around this: Next year marks the 20th anniversary of “the year punk broke.” That’s the term media wonks coined to denote the year when Nirvana’s “Nevermind “topped the U.S. charts, legitimizing (?) more-or-less 20 years of angry, rebellious squall to a much greater degree than even the Ramones or Sex Pistols had done when the concept was still relatively fresh. Once that event occurred, it wasn’t long before kids were buying leather ‘n’ spikes and maybe even getting blue Mohawks at the mall. Not long after Cobain took the coward’s way out like Hemingway, the dumb jocks showed up at the party (anybody remember Offspring?) just like the skinheads did in the early ‘80s. History repeats itself yet again.
By now, punk’s back to being unpopular, ghettoized in DIY spots like the one where I picked up a copy of Razorcake a couple of weeks ago, and perhaps that’s a good thing. Once all the trendhoppers decamped, what was left was the smart kids – the kind that write 10,000 word articles for ‘zines that are also nonprofit organizations, and are more into community organizing than partyin’ till they puke. The children of the early ‘90s are into their 30s now, holding down jobs, raising families, an’ like that. But the ones that are still holding onto punk ideals are laying down some some righteous (and challenging) ramalama.
I don’t want to make This Moment In Black History the poster children for any bullshit “movement,” but they do kind of exemplify what I’m talking about. They’re from Cleveland – a city whose importance in American avant-rock is in the same league as Chicago’s in American avant-jazz – and they’re multiracial, which they say they’re tired of talking about, but not too tired to list their ethnicities along with their instruments in their press kit bio. More to the point, they don’t really sound like anybody else and they hew to nobody’s stylistic conventions; there’s no dropped-D drone with Cookie Monster vocalismo here, nor four-on-the-floor drums with buzzsaw guitars.
They play aggressively but with a much more evolved approach to sound and dynamics than any monochromatic genre band. The “negro” engine room of Lamont “Bim” Thomas (drums) and Lawrence Daniel Caswell (bass) churns away furiously while “1/4 Asian” guitarist Buddy Akita launches volleys of chordal thunder and acerbic riffage over the top. Frontman CK1 snarls unintelligibly but even a cursory examination of their lyrics reveals a blasted aesthete’s sensibility. Sample inspirational verse: “all yr theories are an empty ballroom floor that evaporates the second the coroner calls” – this from a song about having an advanced degree (“MFA”). Or “My Notes,” which reminds me of when competitors at open mic poetry slams flow verse about their art and begins, “Bitch don’t touch my notes…”
If you’re in the market for a punk record that’s in thrall to nobody’s history, this one might be just your meat. Released on vinyl (with free download card) in a limited edition of 1,000. Cop via smogveil.com
- Ken Shimamoto
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