This second album from New Yorker Mike Bones is about, in his own words, “beautiful women and existential despair.” Bones’ name might not be familiar to many people outside the insular Brooklyn music scene, but the folks that make up that crowd (and are tangentially related to it) sure have a lot of time for Bones. Matt Sweeney, the Sian Alice Group and Douglas Armour all crop up as guests on this nine-song recording, which is full of robust rock anthems that are occasionally bolstered by string and horn arrangements.
Bones claims that he purposefully neglected to include any guitar solos on his previous album (The Sky Behind the Sea) and chose the opposite tact this time out. He built his reputation by being something of a virtuoso on the guitar and appears to be indulging a love-hate relationship with the instrument. This is exemplified by “Give Up on Guitars,” which (despite the title) features a sluggish Neil Young-esque guitar solo in its final third.
These kind of prickly solos, which occasionally sound rote, feature prominently throughout A Fool for Everyone. But what makes the record worth coming back to is Bones’ innate talent as a songwriter and arranger. Opener “Today the World Is Worthy of My Loathing” may bear a title ripped straight from the Morrissey songbook, but it serves to demonstrate his considerable strengths. The pointed lyrics read like the words of a forsaken man who has been dealt too many bad hands in life and love, and are expertly grafted onto ballooning strings and bursts of enthusiastic guitar.
“Today the World Is Worthy of My Loathing” is the quintessential Bones song, if such a thing can exist. The rest of the album continues in a similar pattern, with Bones flaunting his superior songwriting skills, which variously recall Elvis Costello, Luke Haines, Joe Strummer and Lou Reed. His lyrics are often spat out with righteous indignation, and he has clearly been considerably slighted by women. There’s also a sense that he’s offloading bundles of built up acrimony. How else to explain lyrics like “I wish the worst for you and your children” (from “One Moment’s Peace”) and “Forgotten by my muse, I had nothing left to use” (from “Like a Politician”).
Bones’ role as the accuser, sputtering anger at everyone around him, is wonderfully assumed here, and makes A Fool for Everyone an enjoyable glimpse at the life of an unloved rogue. Best of all, he has the musical chops to really bring his songs to life, and the contemplative strings of “What I Have Left” and “Much More Than Love” make a great addendum to his overall sound. Bones is the kind of guy who has to flee from buildings as a spurned lover throws shoes at him out of a fourth story window, and this album is a chance for him to tell his side of the story. He does so with considerable vigor, making A Fool for Everyone a deeply gratifying listen.