Mike Bones A Fool For Everyone

[The Social Registry; 2009]

Styles: indie rock, singer/songwriter
Others: Cass McCombs, Stephen Malkmus, Damon McMahon

When an album opens with a song called "Today the World Is Worthy of My
Loathing," am I alone in feeling nauseated by the unmitigated stench of indie hipster condescension? Am I alone in finding misanthropy undesirable? While there are a lot of legitimate things in the current sociopolitical landscape to foment discouragement and even fear, the last reaction I want to experience is that of wallowing in heaping amounts of needless self-pity and isolation. There are plenty of specific maladies in this world against which to rail, so why should we settle for lazy, vague bitterness?

Mike Bones (a.k.a. Mike Strallow), who is better known for his guitar playing in the tight knit circles of the New York indie scene, seems to fancy himself as a singer/songrwriter in the vein of Leonard Cohen. If you're vying to be a voice of your generation, your culture, and your general place and time, should you not be a component of the barometric apparatus of public sentiment? The lyrical preoccupations here aren't unheard of in indie rock, and it is likely that a lot of folks won't be as bothered by them. However, to my sensibilities, Bones seems stuck in a moment of pre/post-millenial disillusionment that I'm ready to leave behind.

Luckily, Bones's voice as an instrument is not a very forceful element. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely featured in the mix, but it has a subdued, slacker-alternative approach, falling somewhere between David Lowery and Steve Malkmus. This actually makes some of the lyrics less caustic than they might be otherwise. He has barely half the conviction one would imagine when reading his lyrics.

If there's one thing that saves A Fool For Everyone from being crushed under the weight of Bones' pronounced cynicism, it's his equally pronounced taste and restraint in the composition, arrangement, and execution of the music accompanying his depressive plaints. Justly recognized for his guitar playing, Bones is adept at pacing, never lingering too long on his flourishes. This extends to the other spots of embellishment, including violin, trumpet, and piano. This is not chamber pop by any means, but Bones shows great promise in knowing how to dress up rock without sanding its edge.

And that's the ultimate tragedy of this album. Musically speaking, Bones is a promising young talent with the benefit of access to many other skilled players. Lyrically, however, he's far from refinement.

1. Today the World Is Worthy of My Loathing
2. One Moment's Peace
3. A Fool for Everyone
4. Like a Politician
5. I'm a Decent Man, I Kept Repeating
6. What I Have Left
7. Much More than Love
8. Give Up on Guitars
9. Everybody's Coming Down on Me

Most Read