Mike Bones: A Fool For Everyone

Social Registry resident guitarist puts out an album less rooted in experimental music than traditional songwriting form.

Mike Bones

A Fool for Everyone

Label: Social Registry
US Release Date: 2009-02-03
UK Release Date: 2009-02-02

When looking at the prolific Social Registry label’s collective of artists, Mike Bones is one of the more intriguing on the roster. This isn’t because of the experimental nature of his recordings, which is much like Gang Gang Dance, Growing, and Psychic Ills, but because of the more traditional route he has taken within his own spectrum of songcraft. Much like the current recordings of Wooden Wand, after experimenting in a circle for a great deal of time, there is something intriguingly new about the idea of writing with verses and choruses.

But there’s something strange that always causes these kinds of experiments to go awry, and certain aspects of them to be utterly fascinating. If experimental artists try to go more traditional, it feels somewhat forced, and vice-versa. On Bones’s latest album, A Fool for Everyone, his diversions into songwriting cover the indie rock territory of the early '90s, the vocal qualities of Robyn Hitchcock and Stephen Malkmus, and the amplified guitar sounds of Americana. Sometimes Bones hits it brilliantly, and other times fall short of the outcome he had intended.

“Today the World Is Worthy of My Loathing”, the album's lead-off track, defines all the beauty and error that A Fool for Everyone is capable of producing. On one hand, it’s this glorious explosion of the guitar-driven rock 'n’ roll that drenched the '90s indie sound, but the lyrics fall into Morrissey’s worst attempts at being sad. A recording can be beautifully produced, and the vocals can even be on point (although I must digress, and claim that Bones is not the most talented singer in the world, but knows exactly what he wants out of his voice), but if the lyrics are at the front of the mix, then you can’t be speaking rubbish.

The pinnacle of the songwriting lies within the album’s title track, “A Fool for Everyone”, where he claims “Like a monkey grinds his cage / Like a woman mourns her age / I made a deal with every pleasure left below the sun”. The song is written about how each and every human desires to live a little, and how vulnerable we are to those life experiences. All in all, one of the better analyses of the nagging urge we all have to sell our dignity for a little bit of life. Bones is tapped into something emotionally that a lot of songwriters today can’t seem to get a finger on, but he’s not always in touch with it. Like many songwriters just starting out, the transition of words from the mind to paper can fail them from time to time.

It’s interesting to think about what this record might have sounded like had it taken on the sonic territory of his Brooklyn counterparts. The most relevant example of this is the 7" single release of “What I Have Left”, in which the b-side is a remixed track (basically, a completely different instrumental rendition with the same vocals) by labelmates Sian Alice Group that takes on the psychedelic, droned-out charm of that gained Social Registry its loyal fan base over recent years. The version that appears on the album is much less inspired, because the pulsating guitars don’t quite compliment the vocals (and, this time, marvelously written lyrics) the way the soundscapes do. Although there are more instruments being utilized, there is also more space being utilized, letting Bones’s voice float around the way it should.

Furthering the case that Bones should not fill up all the space within the track, his CMJ show consisted of nothing but him and a guitar -- and it went off without a hitch. Some of the lesser tracks on the album, such as “One Moment’s Peace”, contain a certain integrity they don’t have on the record. I know artists are compelled to get a specific “sound” in the studio, but Bones never seems to be following his intuition.

That's not to say A Fool for Everyone is a below-sub-par record by any means. Its just that there is more potential for these songs than he allowed them to have. This is a wonderful beginning to a hopefully prolific career. If he’s set on going down the road of traditional songwriting, then he has laid a solid foundation for proceeding, although it would be tremendously interesting to find his sound leading him in a variety of directions for albums to come.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.