This may seem like a bit of a throwback, but I think name still serves this purpose well. It encourages me to stay on top of the creative people still making Iowa and Iowa City interesting and also leaves me open to investigate my new stomping grounds, plus Iowa and Illinois are numbers 1 and 2 in corn production, respectively. I hope to make this a semi-regular review feature–at least one per week, where I review an Iowa or Illinois band under this heading. So keep your eyes peeled if your down with the Midwest. (I’ll take recommendations or requests too, I’m always looking for things to check out.) I’m kicking this off with a lil’ something from one of the Iowa City acts I miss the most: Samuel Locke Ward & The Boo Hoos.

Split 7″

1/2

Sonically, there aren’t a whole lot of similarities between Samuel Locke Ward and his Boo Hoos from Iowa City, IA and Ames IA’s Mumford’s. Despite the abrupt aural difference between the Boo Hoo’s A-side and Mumford’s backing track, it’s easy to see how these two acts found one another.
The Boo Hoos packed their side with three power pop send-ups of contemporary, middle-class malaise in 6:10. “When It’s Gone, It’s Gone,” is an ode everyone “sitting down at [their] desk with [their] nametag on,” built on the now-classic loud-quiet dynamic from the late college rock and early grunge days. “Tell it to the Man of Diminishing Clout” is more brash and abrasive, as the confrontational title may indicate. The second cut opens with riffs taller than an elephant’s eye and, save a 50’s girl group-inspired breakdown, doesn’t let up for the song’s three-minute run time. “Haunt You” has a bit more of the tongue in cheek mock-jock-rock, Sam Locke has been honing in the band’s stage shows. “Haunt You” is big, a little bit goofy and rocks pretty hard, it’s a great cap to the side.

Mumford’s smart and silly, kitchen-sink brand of indie-alt-country chronicles the hapless adventures of a career criminal in “The Way That I Live.” If he weren’t so, apparently, successful and self-aware, I’d swear the narrator of this goofy, morbid, and twisted song was H.I. McDunnough from Raising Arizona (1987). The tune is so loaded with wonderful lines, it’s hard to pick the best set of lyrics to excerpt, especially since I don’t want to blow the hilarious ending of the story. The stanzas below, from early in the song, are a great example of the wit and impeccable construction that’s bubbling over in this song:

When you live the way that I live
You always, always, always, always, always wear gloves
Because the second you take them off
They’ll just get replaced by a pair of police handcuffs.

So you never leave any trace of your fingers behind
And all that’s left at the scene of the crime
Is the end of the plans in your mind
And you’re always two states away by that time.

The narrative flourishes and humor are buoyed by the delicate arrangement which also helps mask the nefarious nature of the narrator. A lilting guitar progression carries the tune plus brushes of pedal guitar, touches of bongos, and horns help liven the chorus and outro. Mumford’s was a band I always missed when they came to town, but I didn’t realize I’d been missing them til now. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Even though some die-hard Hawks may balk at this: go see this Ames outfit when they visit (most likely) The Mill next time.

The digital edition of this split will only run you one dollar through the Boo Hoo’s bandcamp site. Still waiting for word on when the physical copy will be available.

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