This Moment in Black History is a difficult act to analyze, not merely due to their crosscutting stylistic directions or unorthodox structures, but for their entire approach as it pertains to art and substance.
In what might be deemed the burgeoning style of hipster hardcore (or ”blipster” hardcore depending on whether you agree with the New York Times coining cultural terms), TMIBH joins the ranks of those such as Pissed Jeans, the Death Set and latter-day Fucked Up who dabble in experimentalism as much as raw energy. On Public Square, the sense of irony in songs like “Forest Whitaker (In an Uncompromising Role)” and “Theophylline Valentine” bubbles over much more so than any Minor Threat, Bad Brains or even late-era Black Flag.
Sure, at times TMIBH can be rather straightforward, like in “MFA” where the simple message of the chorus is “It’s what I worked so hard for.” The verse is another story, though, spewing cryptically “250 miles down south / Put that chili back in your mouth / Fake metropolitan segregated river town / All your theories are an empty ballroom floor that evaporate the second the coroner calls.”
Tinkering with odd time signatures and garage riffs (“About Last Night”) or being as noisy and discordant as possible (“90% Tone"), the band’s willingness to experiment and lack of regard for convention is palpable. But the disconnect at an emotional level keeps this collection of songs at arm’s length from the listener. Musically, though, with the exception of the particularly out of place indie-hip-hop “My Notes” (“I write my notes on a piece of mail / I write on toilet paper when I’m in jail / Bitch don’t touch my notes”), there is a general cohesiveness that suggests a skilled ability to wrap together a set of such varying approaches.
While it’s impossible to deny the musical mastery and artistic vision of Public Square, it’s hard to muster up any kind of personal investment in spinning a disc that seems mostly bound by aesthetics and avant-garde appeal. While it would surely feel at home shuffling about in the iPod of your average thrifty hipster or MFA candidate, it may remain well outside the grasp of those who seek solace in music.