Some great news of a couple of essential reissues out of the Cleveland underground this month. Bill Fox’s name might have swum into your conciseness if power pop fringes ever cross your turntable, having mad some slight amount of acclaim leading The Mice along with his brother Tommy in the mid-80s. Much to his brother’s dismay, Bill left the band behind just as they began to garner acclaim. The band’s sound had the feeling predicting a pop-punk explosion that was to follow in the early ‘90s, but it seems that wasn’t the route Fox had in mind. Bill would keep out of the public eye for quite a few years, but around 1996 he assembled a backing band he called The Radio Flyers and began to focus on a string of solo records that took on a quieter calling, but found their own ardent following in the process. While The Mice’s garage pop was based on huge hooks and a focused snottiness that made them instantly likable, Bill’s solo recordings were more introspective, finding themselves drenched in a home-recorded hue of folk pop and Everlys ease.
There’s still hangover of the charms that Bill brought to The Mice evident in his first solo LP Shelter From The Smoke, but it trades volume for quietude, reclining nicely into an album that straddles its clear Dylan/ Van Ronk roots with the indie-pop and folk waves that were swimming to the fore around the time. As he gets comfortable and leans into his second LP, Transit Byzantium he’s found himself penning a ruffled, but resplendent gem of an album that lays into hooks with the unfussed air of Guided By Voices if they were recording Elliott Smith style lamentations. Under the tape-hiss humbleness Fox lays out his masterpiece on Transit, weaving an album of nasal folk sighs that chaffed against plenty of trends at the time. However, given time to breathe and re-root itself into consciousness, the album proves to be an evergreen record of homespun tales that rattle around the brain with a weathered charm. The reissue, along with an LP issue of its predecessor mark the first time the albums have been on vinyl, boasting a brand new remastering that lets the sound sink into the grooves and grow into the essential release its always been.
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