Fear Fun is an abstract journey born from the lyrical ramblings of a religious awakening of sorts. So the story goes that Josh Tillman, better known on this album as Father John Misty, left the stool of the Fleet Foxes drum set in Seattle behind. Then, high on magic mushrooms, he drove down the Pacific coast of North America writing a novel, eventually finding himself in Los Angeles. This is presumably where he was struck in the chest by a beam of light. It’s what some will call the rejuvenating powers of vitamin-D.
Long before he kept time with the Fleet Foxes, Tillman was releasing “wound licking” minimalistic solo albums. They were the definition of a sad man singing with a hushed and impotent voice from a hospital bed. Seriously somber yet melodic folk music, not all that unlike Elliott Smith. Apparently the gloomy PNW wore him down to the nub, and by the time he made his escape to the Golden State, he’d become so dissatisfied with the music he’d been making that he needed a whole new perspective.
Fear Fun feels every bit like Tillman working through some demons and emerging on the other side of that battle refreshed. His voice is strong and full of life, the instruments played with authority. The melodies of his older records are present, but here everything is more complex and fully realized. This is exactly the kind of treatment his earlier albums were missing.
Being completely honest, when I first heard the albums third track, Hollywood Forever Cemetery SIngs, it had the aura of Laurel Canyon woven within. I would later learn that the infamous counter culture canyon that echoed Buffalo Springfield, Jim Morrison, and Joni Mitchell, was also where Tillman would eventually call home. Though it has that spirit of late ’60’s early ’70’s rock, it also draws inspiration from musical legends like, Roy Orbison, and Harry Nilsson. Nancy From Now On, Funtimes In Babylon, and Misty’s Nightmares 1&2, are prime examples. Finish all that off with the influence of early country twang that at times border on gospel, and you get a sense of just how massive this album is.
Tillman’s stunningly poetic lyrics really steal the show here. At times the dichotomy between music and lyrics make me question whether they’re intended to be serious or satire.
I ran down the road, pants down to my knees, screaming ‘please come help me, that Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me,’ I’m writing a novel.
It’s funny, but in the way that Hunter S. Thompson was funny. Your head is telling you ‘no way,’ but your gut can’t deny how real it feels. His lyrical prowess really sparkles on the very Harry Nilsson(esque) Nancy From Now On, which is like the rock bottom anthem for addicts. Adult contemporary for the drug addled Soul.
Father John Misty’s Fear Fun is a cleansing journey. From a rutty depression, to snap decisions, lost pleas for help, more pleas for help, rebirth, ending with rejuvenating reflection on Every Man Needs A Companion. It’s a refreshing album that, in it’s own way, gives you the warm fuzzies all over. It makes you want to go out and get something done that you’ve been putting off for far too long.
The wait is finally over, Fear Fun is out today on Sub Pop records and all other common musical distributors. If you want the other kids on the block to think you’re cool, if you want to impress that girl you just started seeing, or if you just love awesome albums with methamphetamine level addictive melodies, then you’ll want to snatch this album before the other addicts get to it first