Review Summary: Joshua Tillman strips himself of his name and releases his first record under the name Father John Misty. After seven solo outings, it's a new sound and a new persona.
“I never liked the name Joshua and I got tired of people calling me J.”
These are the final words spoken on Father John Misty’s Fear Fun where Joshua Tillman strips himself of his name and of his past to start from the beginning, as a new man and with a new sound to accompany this: We have Fear Fun.
The album opens with ‘Fun Times in Babylon’. A sweet ballad equipped with a luscious ukulele swimming in the waters of a charming piano and tasteful drum beat to the words of Father John Misty’s yearning vocals, beckoning for enjoyment in an equally simplistic as it is a near impossible form.
“I would like to abuse my lungs. Smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.”
The track is a sincere opening to an album of stories written with beaming personality of a man broken by love, wound up on drink and drugs and looking to repair his broken body. This isn’t an unfamiliar subject in music but with a backdrop of luscious floor melting, foot stomping grooves and enough believability injected into the veins of the queered mind of a stranded man; we have an album that is masterfully thought out in all aspects you could think of.
The second track ‘Nancy From Now On’ is a rugged tale of destructions mapped against the whimsical background of a piano and organ slapping against every word to keep the balance of lyrics and music as sane as possible. With lyrics such as
“I’ve got my right hand stamped in the concentration camp where my organs scream, “Slow down, man!”
We see that Father John Misty is queuing up for a season of self-destruction. The most noticeable detail amongst all of this chaos and debris is the effective use of production and how beautifully the album was mixed as the latter half of the song proves with spiralling piano keys swirling around the drains of layered percussion and existing keys. It’s really a beautiful thing to allow your ears to drink.
However, Father John Misty’s tales of devilish bad behaviour does not end there in ‘Hollywood Forever, Cemetery Sings’, he enjoys the company of a woman under the appropriate aesthetic of a graveyard. He is at least the voice of reason here.
“But we should let this dead guy sleep.”
His antics continue in ‘I’m Writing a Novel’ as he staggers down the streets, his pants loose around his knees singing
“Please come help me, that Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me.”
It’s an incredibly catchy track with coaxing guitars accompanying each other with piano keys lashing consistently behind all of these bizarre scenarios Father John Misty spits out.
One thing is for certain, Fear Fun deals with a lot of themes and each song is intriguing for their own reasons. Some can live amongst the world of this busted up and bulging horned man looking to mend his broken heart and others, like ‘Now I’m Learning to Love The War’ tell a totally different tale.
“Try not to think so much about the truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record.”
These sly stabs at his own career and the making of other artworks are eventually concluded with a statement so widely relatable, it makes machines from us all.
“I sure hope they make something useful out of me.”
The music on Fear Fun is a strange one to pin-point. It weaves in and out of dusty folk ballads to upbeat country rock anthems. All of this equipped with masterful mixing by Phil Ek and sung clearly by Joshua Tillman’s perfectly appropriate vocals. The instrumentation is always diverse ranging from violin stampedes to casual-dirt sprinkled guitar riffs and the vocals diversify and always match the theme of the lyrics and vocals. It’s an interesting affair, sure to please those who like to hear lyrics and instrumentation delivered with a pristine output but with enough grit left over to remain authentic.
Fear Fun is a thrilling debut for the moniker Joshua Tillman has created. The Music is coherent and the melodies are proud and engaging. This is a record that will stand time for those who really listen and get involved in the saloon romping of the cut up cowboy ‘Father John Misty’. It’s a beautiful blend of country rock and melodic interval that I feel is sure to satisfy any listener who loves to get engaged with everything going on in the album.