Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Mice - For Almost Ever Scooter

The Mice – For Almost Ever Scooter (4.5/5)

The Mice is a Cleveland punk outfit from the 1980s.  They’re the sort of group whose chief audience these days happens to be music geeks interested in local scenester history.  I, in fact, fall into this niche audience, and anyone who is similarly interested in Cleveland’s 70s and 80s punk scene should snatch up this piece of history immediately.  But even for those less inclined to delve into the minutia of the rust belt’s interlocking history of musicians, For Almost Ever Scooter reliably delivers a set of should have been classics. 

The Mice’s poppy yet aggressive sound will be familiar to anyone who grew up listening to music in the 90s.  An entire subgenre of pop-punk rose in popularity thanks to the surprise ascendance of Green Day and The Offspring.  While there were quite a few bands that you might term “diamonds in the rough,” many of these bands were characterized by sped up music that served to cover up their lack of hooks or general songwriting talent.  For bands supposedly in the punk tradition, they seemed far too shiny and clean—presumably more interested in the diamonds than in the rough.  So when professing my love for The Mice, I have to ask myself why do I love this scrappy band from Cleveland and not all of the imitators who suddenly appeared ten years later?

For one thing, they’re great craftsmen.  As time moves on, music scenes tend to move further away from their original source of influence.  Green Day was obviously a bigger influence on Blink 182 than, say, The Undertones.  The result sounds like a copy of a copy.  The Mice write great little packets of punk noise, but “Rescue You Too” and “Little Rage” prove that they can also whittle out a mid-tempo ballad in the tradition of 70s rock.  The Mice also benefit from lead singer Bill Fox’s delivery that’s just scruffed up enough to lend some gravity to his bratty attitude.

While the majority of the songs off of For Almost Ever Scooter are concerned with unrequited love (female names figure into a large portion of their lyrics), The Mice also have a political bent.  Several songs bring up the specter of empires that have faded away as obvious parallels to the United States.  In “Not Proud of the USA,” Fox sings, “Look at Rome and Babylon / Even Egypt sat beneath the sun / Now it looks like their days are done.”  It might seem strange that a band would sing these lyrics in the mid-80s.  After all, a few years later would see the fall of the Soviet Union.  But the collapse of the rust belt served as a canary in the coal mine for many in Cleveland, and the lack of decent, stable jobs for high school graduates has been cited as one reason for our present day sputtering economy.  In this instance, it was because The Mice were located way out in the “fly over states” that they had a prescient understanding of the world.  Maybe it’s time we start ignoring the buzz bands from Brooklyn and start asking what the rest of the country has to say.

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