Fresh-Faced Tunes Brighten Gloomy Skies Above Flats

For Almost Ever Scooter compiles both records by the Mice, a Cleveland powerpop band led by Bill Fox; its title combines their titles. From 1985, For Almost Ever was six shockingly fresh-faced blasts, reminding one of what must be gray skies around fall/winter in rural/suburban Ohio (never really been there), not to mention requisite hearts on sleeves. The first and maybe best song is the most literal encapsulation of this perceived aesthetic; Bill Fox and girlfriend are bored in the cornfields, so they go downtown and see lots of people, for instance policemen who they don't talk to 'cause "my baby hates guns." There may be some stuff about the subway too.

The undeniable teen energy (liner notes say Bill's drummer brother Tommy was 15 at the time) is belied by Fox's masterful handling of melody and some particularly astute harmonic and instrumental choices. There is also an unexplained on-off theme of pharaohs and tombs—almost à la the Ramones:Nazis or Half Japanese:monsters, though less pronounced.

Scooter, from a year later, progresses more in terms of sound rather than attitude. Overdubbed acoustic guitars provide a comfortable bed, and a couple of the prettier numbers could almost be compared to Ohio almost-contemporaries Guided by Voices, except that the words here are actually about things. The acoustic closer, "Carolina," anticipates the heartbreak if not the occasional AOR proclivities of the singer's more recent solo work. Other tracks match the first EP's vigor, and "Bye Bye Kitty Cat" is as bitter a breakup kiss-off as you'll hear.

 
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