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Album Review
Fear Fun

Fear Fun
by Father John Misty

Sub Pop

Review Date
27th June 2012
Reviewed by
Matthew Cattin

Despite Joshua Tillman’s talent for songwriting, the breakout success of his ex-band Fleet Foxes in 2008 has kept him spending more time on a drum stool than in the spotlight. With seven records to the name J. Tillman, including the wintry beauty of 2009’s Vacilando Territory Blues, releasing poignant solo records to only slight success has brought on a new chapter, Father John Misty.

Fear Fun is a collection of whimsical tales from a man seemingly quite removed from reality. The album sleeve is enough to suggest Father John Misty is not a moniker, but rather a spiritual reincarnation for the humanoid shell formerly known as Joshua. A cartoon collage of third eyes, twisting snakes, red kings and white queens adorn the cover in a psychedelic cross between Astro Boy and Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. The music, and the rustic yarns spun in each track, shrouds your head in hazy dreams of mystic gypsies and travelling souls.

‘Fun Times in Babylon’ opens the door to the open road, a track that celebrates Tillman’s older material and reveals his new path. “I would like to abuse my lungs; smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved,” he shares over glittering classical guitar and backing vocals that swirl like the wind. The easiness of his voice has not changed, nor the minimalist percussion that so carefully keeps the tune’s soft shoes wandering along.

‘Nancy From Now On’ is a falsetto driven tale of masochism and substance abuse – a tinkering whirlwind of piano giving the tune a shimmering appeal. “Oh pour me another drink and punch me in the face – you can call me Nancy”. The vocals are layered, perhaps unnecessarily heavily, and I feel the harmony levels could have been brought out a bit more. But altogether the sound is generally easy on the ears and thought provoking on the mind – a combination so simple yet so often lacking.

The first bluesy song of the album emerges in ‘I’m Writing a Novel’, a catchy number with interesting phrasing and a bit more vocal strain than chilled Tillman usually serves up – a winning move in my books. ‘Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2’ is a beautiful, alt-country piece with a thudding bass line, slide guitars and ghoulish harmonies. Like Tillman’s earlier records, the variety of sounds is rather lacking and midway through the album, the clouds of dejavu slowly obscure the record’s originality. Tillman fans I suspect will be divided but his new direction has in no way impeded the strength of the album.


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