Duuude, Tapes! The Mound Builders & Bo Jackson 5, Split

Easy to imagine the artwork meetings between the bands and Clayton Jarvis of Abom Designs involved the phrase, “Make it like in my nightmares” somewhere along the line. The four-eyed cat’s stare on the cover the new Failure Records and Tapes split cassette between Indiana-based acts Bo Jackson 5 and The Mound Builders makes sure the release is going to stay with you one way or another. There are only three songs on the thing, split up with The Mound Builders on side one and Bo Jackson 5 on side two (the included download reverses the order), and it’s done in a little over 17 minutes, but the liner is glossy, the art gorgeous if also horrendous, and both bands have enough time to make an impression.

In the case of Lafayette’s The Mound Builders, the double-guitar five-piece return with the same lineup from 2011’s Strangers in a Strange Land (review here) and show steady development of their Southern heavy rock sound. I still hear a good deal of Alabama Thunderpussy in their two inclusions, “Sport of Crows” and “Barroom Queen” — not a complaint — but the recording this time, particularly in Jason Brookhart‘s drums, is a little more metal, and that blends well with the thrashier gallop and the Down II-style turns of “Barroom Queen,” guitarists Nate Malher and Brian Boszor touching on “Stained Glass Cross” in the chorus while bassist Ryan Strawsma thickens the groove and vocalist Jim Voelz straddles the line between burly soul and a gruffer delivery. “Sport of Crows,”¬†which appears first, has Strawsma more at the fore of the mix with a clean but resonant tone. It’s a little more aggressive than one might think of for riff rock, but that influence is there as it was on the full-length. Particularly in comparison to Bo Jackson 5, The Mound Builders come across as aiming for a steady, professional crispness in their sound, and that suits the material well.

There’s a few seconds’ delay for the side change, since Bo Jackson 5‘s “Bo Blacktop” is longer than “Sport of Crows ” and “Barroom Queen” together. The song, which follows their late-2013 full-length debut, checks in at just under nine minutes and has a much more homemade vibe almost immediately than did The Mound Builders. The Logansport duo of guitarist/vocalist Adam Gundrum and drummer Jason Perdue recorded live in what they’ve dubbed The Spacement, and “Bo Blacktop” sure enough sounds like a rehearsal. I like that, especially on a tape, so their noise rock riffing and jagged, semi-progressive punker edge works captured naturally, incongruous as it may be with what The Mound Builders are doing at the outset. Some memorable vocal lines from Gundrum hit before the riffs turn meaner, and “Bo Blacktop” drives hard toward what seems like an inevitable noisy finish. When it gets there, the cymbal wash from Perdue is almost abrasive, but the recording cuts off as if to underscore Bo Jackson 5‘s garage-punk fuckall, and as averse as I generally am to bands playing off celebrity names for their monikers — it’s a brand of irono-cynicism that will be a laughable mark of this decade in years to come; or maybe I should just lighten the fuck up — Gundrum and Perdue made me a fan by the time they were finished.

It was my first time hearing Bo Jackson 5, and they don’t have a lot in common with The Mound Builders, but sometimes it’s better to be surprised with something like this, and when I popped in the tape, part of the fun was not knowing what was coming. The split was a Record Store Day special, and limited to 100 copies, so I’m not sure how many are left or will be left to pick up from the label. The Mound Builders are already at work on their next outing, which will reportedly combine a new recording with a comic book, and Bo Jackson 5 recently opened for Supersuckers and will no doubt make a cowbell-laden return soon. I’ll keep an eye out.

The Mound Builders/Bo Jackson 5, Split Tape (2014)

The Mound Builders on Thee Facebooks

Bo Jackson 5 on Thee Facebooks

Failure Records and Tapes

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