If you had to describe This Moment in Black History in a word, "immediate" would be a pretty good one. On record and especially at its incendiary live shows, the band shakes up bodies and brains with a sound that's impossible to ignore. It's short, fast, and incredibly aggressive.
"Arty hardcore," guitarist Buddy Akita calls it.
"Inevitable" was the word used by Version City, the New York indie label that signed the Cleveland quartet after seeing it live at a local house party. Now an album is in the can, and a career is on the rise. And they haven't been together for a year.
This Moment's first moments sprang from a basement jam session, where four musician friends quickly churned out two songs and a fresh sound. All four had done time in other bands, with varying degrees of success: singer-keyboardist Chris Kulcsar in the Chargers Street Gang, drummer Lamont "Bim" Thomas in the Bassholes, and Akita and bassist Mike D'Amico most recently in the West Coast outfit Neon King Kong. "I got sick of hearing all of these punk bands lately that are just straight rock and roll, like verse-chorus-verse-chorus," says Akita. "It just got really boring."
Too many virtuosos have spoiled many bands. But This Moment's tight yet flexible players complement each other perfectly. They play hardcore that's also something more -- deceptively complex, filled with little touches that keep the band from sounding like typical punks. The rhythm section is more intricate, with funky flourishes and beats that seldom conform to four-on-the-floor mayhem. D'Amico's bass is simultaneously melodic and rumbling; Akita's percussive guitar handles both rhythms and leads, never robbing a tune of its catchiness or veering into wanking solo territory. It's all topped off by Kulcsar's urgent vocals and Moog-pounding noises and samples. The resultant sound is unique, yet familiar enough to dive into headfirst. Picture Black Flag tearing through two-minute covers of the Parliament-Funkadelic back catalog, and you're halfway there.
"It was really weird to me, because I've never really clicked like that with three other people," says Akita, who has known D'Amico and Kulcsar since high school. "It really didn't take that much effort."
Just as This Moment channels the early hardcore sound of bands like Minor Threat and Bad Brains, Kulcsar's lyrics follow another old punk tradition -- a form of politics that's manifested mostly in seething anger and anarchic energy. Kulcsar often comes across as frustrated by his world. As it happens, he is.
"A lot of our songs have a political bent," he says. "I'm kind of frustrated with a lot of bands lately, because the political climate is completely disgusting right now, and the messages of dissent aren't really forthcoming. There's a lot of apathy right now, and I'm really disappointed by that."
For a hardcore screamer, Kulcsar's also shrewd enough to know when he's overbearing. "Onstage, I'll try to explain what some of the political songs are about and try to get people riled up; and lots of times people in the crowd will yell, 'Oh, shut up -- just play music!'" he says. "I try to keep it short, but people just don't seem to get what I'm saying. At one show, I introduced a song by saying it was about how great America is -- totally tongue-in-cheek, totally sarcastic. After the show, a skinhead bought our CD and said, 'That's great that you guys have all these pro-America songs!' It's frustrating."
Count the folks at Version City among those quickly hooked by the band's vibe. Soon after seeing This Moment tear up a sweaty Cleveland house party, label reps brought the band to Brooklyn for a gig at the Mighty Robot. They were signed shortly thereafter. A seven-inch single, "Hung Up"/"Grand Lover Session," will be released on September 30; a full-length album, recorded in Detroit with Jim Diamond (the White Stripes, Dirtbombs), is due out in February (Black History Month, of course). Both sides of the single come and go in under 8 minutes, while the full-length flies by in just under 35. But the music stays with you for days.
"TMIBH grabbed our attention immediately," says Rebecca Ross, co-founder of Version City, which has helped break the careers of such Big Apple rockers as Oneida and the Liars. "It was inevitable. They seek to take out anything that stands in front of them, and there's really nothing you can do except let them take you down or just get the hell out of their way.
"The Mighty Robot show was one of the greatest live shows I had ever seen. Chris was literally swinging off the pipes on the ceiling, storming out into the crowd, trying to get everyone to dance; Buddy was just stripping the pick on his guitar; and Mike and Bim were heavy into the rhythm. It was just a total feeding frenzy."