Review Summary: Of Mice & Men does 100% of everything we expect them to, but they do it well. Therefore their self titled debut is actually a worthy entry in the post-hardcore genre.
After his departure from Attack Attack!, Austin Carlile immediately got together with bassist Jaxin Hall to create his newest walk to fame, Of Mice & Men. In an interview with Jaxin Hall, he stated that the band name refers to the American Dream, and since Jaxin is not from America (New Zealand, to be exact) this band is meant to be his American Dream. After the two got together, drummer Valentino Arteaga, formerly of Lower Definition, had joined the band. Following him was John Kintz on guitar and Phil Manansela, also on guitar. A little while later, Phil Kintz was cut from the band and replaced by Shayley Bourget. Eventally, after signing to Rise Records (yes, another Rise project) the band went into the studio to release their self-titled full length album.
Looking back at what Austin did with Attack Attack!, people automatically assume the worst for Of Mice & Men, though Attack Attack! wasn’t a complete disaster. In fact, Of Mice & Men does nothing to set themselves apart from other entries in the post-hardcore genre, the band just does an extremely good job of doing nothing new. If that makes sense. On this debut release, you will hear tons of breakdowns, catchy choruses and Austin’s great screaming vocals, this is one of those bands that make “live play” music. Meaning that all of the music on this album is great to play live, simply because there are a lot of great audience participation moments. From breakdowns to chants, this band sets themselves to be so much fun live. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a solid listen, because this album shines at times, and these moments can be heard often throughout the album.
One of the first things you notice when the album opener, ‘YDG’ begins playing are the vocals. If you ever listen to Attack Attack!, you know that Austin has awesome screaming abilities. His screaming vocals can be set apart from other vocalists in the genre, which is a good thing since 90% of screaming vocalist sound exactly the same. The problem with Austin is that there is no real range throughout the record, he sounds the same in every single song. When ‘Seven Thousand Miles for What’ begins playing much later in the album, we eventually find ourselves somewhat annoyed at that same scream. One of the only things that saves the lack of range in Austin’s screams are Shayley's singing abilities. In the popular ‘Second & Sebring’, Shayley's voice is the strongest element of the track, aside from the personally emotional lyrics of Austin Carlile that is. Shayley has such a strong voice and the band isn’t afraid to use it, though most of the time it’s heard in the choruses, it was pleasant to hear it in more than one part of every song.
If you’re a fan of post-hardcore, than you basically know what this band is all about. You will hear an abundance of breakdowns, and unfortunately most of them can’t be told apart from one another. Every now and then though the band manages to throw one out there that catches your attention, such as in ‘John Duex Trois’. The breakdown is slow at the start, and features a great guitar riff in the background, but right when it speeds up it becomes effective. In tracks like ‘The Ballad of Tommy Clayton & The Rawding Millionaire’ and ‘This One’s For You’, the guitars stand out the most. I’m not a guitar player and I know nothing about them, but there are some pretty catchy guitar moments, especially in the beginning of ‘This One’s For You’.
Of Mice & Men certainly are making a better name for themselves then Attack Attack!, and now that Carlile was kicked out of OM&M, Jerry Roush has become the new vocalist. I’m nervous and excited to hear what Roush can do with Of Mice & Men, but when listening to what Austin has done with this band on their debut album, I hope they continue on this path. It seems as if Carlile has a lot of bad luck, but he started something good here. People will trash it, but nothing is perfect. Maybe with less breakdowns and more focus on writing, the band could continue on to make a record better than this. Until then, enjoy the breakdowns were given and sing along with catchy choruses, for this might be the highest career spot Of Mice & Men will find themselves in.