Sub Pop Records
May 1, 2012
The former Seattleite and ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman has built something of a>"/>
The former Seattleite and ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman has built something of a reputation for being an eccentric, weed-loving post-hippie, enhanced by his popular Twitter account, from which he describes things like getting stoned and sleeping through 4/20 and such ponderations as, "Oh, Lord. I CANNOT decide on what hue for the parlor! Winter butter? Burnt umbre? Aspen grain? Eggshell? Cool ranch?"
But if Tillman is some sort of hilariously addled slacker, he beats the lazy cliches of that particular personality type. His debut as Father John Misty is an intricately orchestrated album that incorporates careful touches of organs, mandolin, and, at least once, whistling, all tied together by Tillman's strong, fluid, and surprisingly pretty vocals. FJM's freewheeling music reflects the golden '70s of Laurel Canyon (Tillman's current home) without being derivative. Misty keeps it all fresh by skipping from heavy psych-rock ("Hollywood Forever Cemetery Song") to easy acoustic (the lovely opener "Funtimes in Babylon") and whimsical folk ("Well, You Can Do It Without Me"). His CSNY-style rocker, "Only Son of a Ladiesman," is the lone track that faintly rings of Fleet Foxes.
Tillman recently told A.V. Club that he left Fleet Foxes because he was bored of being just a drummer, and Fear Fun seems to give free rein to every single idea he's been keeping inside of him. For the first time, really, this record shows Tillman's incredible gift for lyricism. His songs are reminiscent of the Beatles' "Ballad of John and Yoko," with the verses reeling off whimsical globe-trotting adventures. Misty's world is colorfully populated by the gun-toting Sally Hatchet, Heidegger and Sartre sipping opium tea, John the Baptist commingling with Joseph Campbell and the Rolling Stones. And while it's true that Fear Fun is refreshingly infused with a sense of humor that flippantly, joyfully references drugs ("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!'") and sex ("You said 'Whip it out!'/And I started to shout/'I'm in love with a woman! Again!'"), Tillman makes all his jokes knowingly. Fear Fun is a storyboard of Tillman's excessive life--the good times and California cool--but it comes with a relatable poignancy in the urgent need to capture and crystallize the current now before everything change again. "I'll just call this what it is: My vanity gone wild with my crisis," he sings on "I'm Learning to Love the War," "One day this will all repeat/I sure hope they make something useful out of me."
Father John Misty's Fear Fun is out today. I clearly recommend buying it. In the meantime, stream the whole thing below: