Father John Misty: Fear Fun
Every couple decades or so, Surviving the Golden Age over-looks something you desperately need to know about. I know what you’re thinking, “But Ray, StGA consistently releases the best album reviews on or before their release dates… How could this happen?” We totally agree with you and appreciate the support but it happens folks. In addition to bringing you up to the minute information from severely hip rock, indie and hip-hop acts and keeping the bodies of lesser hack journalist well hidden in the office crawl space, we on occasion miss something important. When that happens, our legions of crack journalists walk coals and slit throats to rectify the situation and return this publication to your good graces.
And so it happened, on the first of May our Father John Misty released Fear Fun and we ran no review. Our editor-in-chief Mr. Adam Morgan has since ordered me to personally torture the interns until an answer surfaces. Never-mind the moist screams issuing from the water boarding session in the next room, instead please accept with our humblest apologies the Fear Fun review as it should have originally appeared:
Father John Misty, (aka Josh Tillman, aka Dad) came up the hard way playing folk music to empty seats in rotgut venues in and around Philadelphia. Fate smiled on his hard work though, and he was soon beating out skins for the locally successful group Saxon Shore. Not content with the meager though established working group, he quit. Not the wisest choice for a folk singer, however ambition breeds success and between solo recordings Father John Misty found himself incorporated into the Seattle based Fleet Foxes.
It won’t come as much of a surprise to then discover this college drop-out, folk singing member of a nationally recognized act decided to quit that as well. But bless him for it because as they say, God protects fools and drunks. Mr. Tillman is a bit of both, because his latest release Fear Fun, is an inspired little piece of heaven.
On his eighth solo studio album Father John delivers a mixture of humorous narration, emotive longing, skeptical observations of American culture, and the downright bizarre- often contrasting violent, destructive lyrics against the mellow strum of an acoustic guitar and light hearted fiddling- and sometimes all within a single track.
Take for example “I’m Writing a Novel.” It’s a fine jaunt in the nature of John Prine’s “Spanish Pipedream,” where we follow the singer on a psycho-delic journey which ends in Malibu and begins with the protagonist running naked down the street screaming, “Please come help me, that Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me!” And it only gets better from there, referencing Neil Cassady, Ayahuasca, Robert Johnson and the ever present glut of pretentious coffee house novelists. It’s a critique of American progressives, suggesting any given perspective is just as irrelevant and foolish as any other.
Another highlight comes a few tracks later on “Only Son of a Lady’s Man.” In it Father John juxtaposes sex and death, begging the question whether one only exists because of the other. It becomes striking as well as relevant theme when applied to the over saturation of pop culture in the media. “Couldn’t see his used up body at the funeral/ by virtue of the flailing of his conquests/ they tied down his casket with a garter belt/ each troubled heart beating in a sequined dress.” While it isn’t so timely, one can’t but draw parallels between the song’s subject and America’s fascination with dead celebrities.
There’s an incredible wealth of discovery on Fear Fun, and each of the twelve tracks offers something to be explored. Sonically, the album shifts from honky-tonk to sixties country western, featuring drawling fiddle work, sustaining mandolin/organ rhythm’s, and succulent piano melodies. But the real strength on the record lies with Father John’s visionary lyrics, most of which could stand alone as poetry, whose message is only further served by Pa John’s unforced, honest delivery.
MP3: Father John Misty “I’m Writing a Novel”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl
Father John Misty: Fear Fun