If you mix the reverb-happy psychedelia of Big Star with the skittering, punky sounds of The Soft Boys and the lo-fidelity charm of Sebadoh, you’re not far off from The Mice. The Cleveland, OH trio, comprised of brothers Bill (guitar) and Tommy (drums) Fox, along with bassist Ken Hall (who they acquired through an ad that read, simply “The Mice need bassist. No Metalheads!”) made gloriously unrefined, poppy punk (though, decidedly, not pop-punk) in the most apt of settings: a basement in the Midwest. Their entire official output is collected on For Almost Ever Scooter, named such as a mashing together of their lone EP (For Almost Ever: 1985 | Herb Jackson) and their lone LP (Scooter: 1986 | St. Valentine). The Mice get in and out in less than an hour, and you can’t help but feel like a bigger dose would kill the energy.
From opener “Downtown,” a Let It Be-era Replacements sound-alike, with Bill Fox yelping about Cleveland rather than Minneapolis, the band is relentless: rough housing amplifiers and microphones, the guitars sound somewhere between clean and distorted, as though they’ve eschewed pedals in favor of turning tiny, shitty amps up way too loud. Tommy Fox plays drums like he caught them breaking into his house: drum fills come heavy and come often, both mid-lyric and for post-lyric emphasis. Bill seems angry at everything: the simple life (“Downtown”), his girl (“Rescue You Too,” containing one of the album’s most obvious, effective lyrics: “I need you / you need me too / what will you do?”) and the U.S. (“Not Proud of the USA”) to name just a few.
The second half of the disc, originally packaged as the Scooter LP (the first six songs being an EP known as For Almost Ever) trades in a bit of the punk element for a more Odyssea and Oracle-era Zombies feel, but even here, none of the aggressive energy of the first half is lost. Perhaps just a slightly better recording environment, or maybe Bill scraped enough cash together for a good acoustic, and voila: “When Tiffany Cries” and “Carolina” are the finest moments on a pretty astounding collection of unheard gems.
Bill Fox quit The Mice, and indeed music altogether, in 1986, seemingly immediately on the precipice of garnering serious mainstream attention (or, at least, The Mice might have gotten big enough to quit their day jobs). He disappeared for ten years before briefly resurfacing in 1998 with two sublime solo albums (Shelter From the Smoke and Transit Byzantium), before disappearing, it seems, for good. The Mice shouldn’t remain stuck in a Cleveland basement. They should get stuck in your head.
-Brook Pridemore, jezebelmusic.com