Calling Fear Fun by Father John Misty a debut album is a bit like calling the first game Ron Artest played after changing his name to Metta World Peace his introduction to the NBA. Joshua Tillman, however much he hates to be called it, has been a mainstay of the folk/rock/country/hipster/disillusionment music scene long before he joined with the Fleet Foxes in 2008. In fact, Fear Fun is his eighth album. And it is probably the first time that we’ve heard him in full force, breaking free of the rather morose and (if I may be frank) boring content of his previous non-Fleet Fox work.
In fact, Fear Fun is not afraid of, anything really. The carnival/obviously Sergeant Pepper-inspired cover art serves as the perfect introduction to an album that is at once frenetic and honest, scary and comforting. Musically, he ranges from grunge, to country, to (dare I say) near disco-level pop, but lyrically he successfully builds his listener a world to explore; a fun house mirror version of Los Angeles, complete with drugs, sex, celebrities, and traffic.
“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is an unstoppable hit, sounding every bit as sexy and enticing as it does remorseful for bad behavior. If you haven’t seen the music video starring Aubrey Plaza in a decidedly non-April Ludgate role, you are doing yourself a disservice. It is a rare example of a song that both lyrically offers more upon repeat listening and is catchy enough to warrant it.
“Nancy From Now On” and “I’m Writing a Novel” are great examples of Tillman turning conventional sounds on their head with lyrics that border on nonsensical, yet skewer the culture of Los Angeles (and beyond) in a way that tempers their weirdness into something irresistible. A personal favorite, “Tee Pees 1-12,” is probably the albums strangest combination. A definitive country dance ditty, its lyrics weave bondage, literature, plastic surgery, and mental illness with the strong twang (and hand claps!) befitting a line dance.
If a name change was what it took to bring this level of complexity and energy out of Josh Tillman, it is clear worth the wait. Let’s all hope that he can continue to produce this level of weird yet wonderful cavalcade down the line.
-Written by Eve Cohen
Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”