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Inside Steven Alan

Now, you listen here

  • November 21st, 2008 | Uncategorized

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    At the Steven Alan store in Tribeca there’s a music nook. Something akin to that area in your elementary school library where you could slip on a pair of headphones and listen to books on tape. While the sounds have changed, the joy of listening hasn’t. Our own Nate Landry talks about what he’s listening to and loving right now.

    The Mice – For Almost Ever Scooter (Scat Records, 2004)

    Bill Fox – Transit Byzantium (SpinArt, 1998)

    —Unbeknownst to many, Cleveland in the mid-late 80s was home to one of the best American songwriters in recent memory. I’m not talking about David Thomas, whose Pere Ubu forms, along with Black Flag and Minutemen, a sort of inviolable triumvirate of American rock luminosity. Instead, I call your attention to Bill Fox, whose work with The Mice and as a solo artist in his own right deserves a far wider and brighter spotlight than it seems to have received to date. Fox formed the Mice in 1985, with younger brother (and obvious Keith Moon aficionado) Tommy—who, rumor has it, was only the tender age of 15 when the Mice recorded their debut in 1985—and bassist Ken Hall. For Almost Ever Scooter gathers the Mice’s two full-length releases (titled, you guessed it, For Almost Ever and Scooter). The three play power-pop avant la lettre and look in photos like a younger and less-drunk Replacements (the Foxes, in many pictures, sport Paul Westerberg mops). The inescapable mark of late adolescence on Bill Fox’s lyrics (invariably about girls, tombs, and…girls), meanwhile, is belied by a confident and perfectly-executed musicianship. 1986’s Scooter marks a near-impossible maturation in the band’s sound, as if the Mice knew their time would shortly be up.

    After disbanding the Mice in 1988 (and leaving behind a never-to-be-finished third LP), Bill Fox flew under the radar for nearly a decade, until he resurfaced, still in Cleveland, to release a couple solo albums—one of which, Transit Byzantium, I urge you to check out in all its lo-fi perfection. Eighteen tracks of solo and overdubbed (and largely acoustic) guitar, not a clunker in the whole thing. Lyrics about girls and relationships in various states of (im)perfection are still the basic fare, with doses of Midwestern mythologizing (“Quartermaster’s Wintertime” and “Saga of Bus Station Joe and Rag Luck Addie”) thrown in. Plus, you get the added bonus of “My Baby Crying.”  A record for waking up early (and alone) on winter mornings, if you ask me, though just as good year-round.

    This entry was posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 11:12 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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One Response to “Now, you listen here”

  1. thorn says:

    i’m so happy to see people, seemingly, finally coming around to the genius that is bill fox. the mice’s ‘not pround of the usa’ was a mixtape/cd constant throughout the eight years of the bush admin. thumbs up from this former ohio boy.