My first impression was: ‘I’m listening to Fleet Foxes – how did that happen?’ It turns out I was kind of right – Father John Misty is the new incarnation of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman.
Somehow, he has already managed to record 7 solo albums in 5 years under the name J. Tillman. This latest effort is more forceful and less introspective than those records, which is perhaps why he’s decided to rebrand himself. Here he sings with a certain authority, sounding a lot like a folksy Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol.
Before I could get too comfortable in my slippers though, track 2 began: ‘Oh pour me another drink/And punch me in the face/You can call me Nancy’. It was then that I realised “Fear Fun” was a lot weirder and more interesting than I first thought.
Track 3, “Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings”, continues in the same vein: ‘Jesus Christ, girl/What are people gonna think/When I show up to one of several funerals/I’ve attended for Grandpa this week?’ This is one of the most memorable songs on an album of immense quality.
Next up on track 4, there’s some talk of pants round ankles and Canadian shamen, as he returns to the choral sound of Fleet Foxes. Then, on “Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2”, he combines those harmonies with a slight country twang.
This album is definitely a curious mix of styles. Sometimes it even sounds a little like Tillman’s about to burst into a number by The Beatles.
This rich blend of sounds and the often-intriguing lyrics certainly maintained my curiosity. “Tee Pees 1-12”, for instance, opens with violins from a barn dance and the lines: ‘Well you took me to the movies/You took me to the dance/Took me to your warehouse/Tied up in the back of your van’.
This entertaining, country-infused style of yarn-spinning, also to be found in “I’m Writing A Novel”, makes you wonder if he hasn’t listened to a lot of Johnny Cash.
His lyrics are more than just entertaining though. “Now I’m Learning To Love The War”, for example, is a brilliant take on the wastefulness of today’s society, which avoids following Bono and Geldof down the road of sanctimony.
I enjoyed being constantly surprised by the new directions “Fear Fun” took, and while there’s never something for everyone on an album, there’s something for a lot of people here.