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Mike Bones - A Fool for Everyone

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Artist: Mike Bones

Album: A Fool for Everyone

Label: The Social Registry

Review date: May. 21, 2009


Mike Bones - "One Moments Peace" (A Fool for Everyone)


Nearly everything about Mike Bones’ approach to songwriting is underwritten by Leonard Cohen’s career. First attempts to get into his second solo effort, A Fool for Everyone, might be enough to have you reaching for your copy of Songs from a Room. If you stick it out, though, you should find that Bones, né Strallow, isn’t musically derivative as much as he’s in thrall to Cohen’s rangy persona. Bones has pretty much figured things out musically as a hired-hand guitarist at this point in his career. Listening closely to Fool, you can hear him looking for and lighting on a narrative style that can contain and direct his musical ideas. The music itself goes from the loose, sinewy rock of the post-Television Noo Yawk school (“I’m A Decent Man, I Kept Repeating,” “Today the World Is Worthy of My Loathing”) to slower, thicker songs that foreground Bones’ fingerpicking (“Like A Politician”). In both cases, Bones is trying to tell stories about love that honor ambiguity above all.

“One Moment’s Peace” stands out as a marriage of the album’s two musical modes, and showcases some of Bones’ most characteristic lyrics. The mode is macho whimsy: the typical speaker in a Bones song is the deadened sort, strangely eager to share his apathy. In “One Moment’s Peace,” dude’s “wrapped himself in sulfurous flames,” “shown many men the business end of a knife,” and “become bored and sick at beauty’s sight.” Pondering these characters’ resumes and the concomitant feeling of phoniness allows the pleasures of the songs themselves to take you by surprise. The goofy, self-aware “Bird on a Wire” lyrical homage that starts off the title track ("Like a monkey grinds his cage, like a woman born to rage...") shifts scrutiny long enough to let Bones build a massive chorus, all brass dolor and the weedy overreach. If there’s something formulaic about Bones’ lyrics, it has little to do with cliché and much to do with an emotional range he borrows most directly from Cohen, but shares with peers like Cass McCombs. Bones does more with Cohen’s po-faced male crisis than McCombs, who marries prosaic detail with cryptic descriptions. If McCombs’ music might fly in a forward-thinking Pier 1 Imports, Bones’ citified music tries for the OTB. Even the stale ciggie smoke cover art echoes Cohen’s creased face under his Buckskin Boys hat on the iconic Room cover, an image stretched between male myth and straight up male narcissism.

There are songs here, and they grow in the way that songs this obviously devoted to craft are supposed to. Bones’ L.E.S. cred, punk bona fides, and constitutional bummed-out-ness, is critical catnip to the likes of Vice. Part of the difficulty with A Fool for Everyone lies in the fact that its most consistently intriguing quality -- the constant slippages between music and lyrics, and the wondering whether Bones is a wounded romantic street tough or just as thick as his name implies – can’t really sustain your attention for the length of an album. Overestimate it for the wrong reasons, and you’ll still get a lot out of A Fool for Everyone; underestimate it for the right reasons and you won’t have to look too hard for a replacement. If McCombs’ career is any indication, it might take another album for Bones to come into his own, providing a more compelling reason to commit to his songs’ ambiguity than the ones offered here.

By Brandon Bussolini

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