Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Danny Reisch at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
Joshua Tillman's got a thing for mankind, or, more so a thing for the idea of the rapid decaying of mankind and what his role might be in it. Sure, he's more worried about his own decay and what could be next up for him, but it sort of all goes into the same pot. As Father John Misty, Tillman has struck upon his greatest fountain yet. An accomplished solo musician before he joined Fleet Foxes on the drums, Tillman has never been more entrancing than with his FJM debut, "Fear Fun," a sprawling and meticulous manifesto of a man on the brink of either losing it or getting it all figured out. It sure seems like he's got a handle on his lot in life though - loving the brutal contradictions and hypocrisies that flutter around like summer mosquitoes after a good, wet spring. He bear hug's the very idea that there's no way out but for death. He just wants to maybe get to some place like a Babylon, where he can smoke everything in sight, abuse his lungs and hang out with all of the girls he's ever loved. He'll just try to compensate for that wish for the time being, until his ship comes in. The story that plays out on "Fear Fun," seems to be plucked from a larger narrative, of which is presented in small font, in a lengthy, multi-fold-out packet of liner notes accompanying the album. To give you an idea of what we're dealing with, the novella, OR the "proposal for a hypothetical video game, 'Bed Bug Mountain,'" contains passages like the one that I happily include below, from a section entitled, "Lee Copperhead's Blues."
"One day in chapel I took it upon myself to share a vision with the school. Lee had just given a talk about obeying the teaching staff, and I was overcome with a vision of a bearded man standing on a mountain.
'And his tongue wasn't a human tongue, but a sword! And he used this sword to cut children in half like so many defenseless bed bugs! In one hand he held the thigh of a virgin and in the other a paddle, pointed towards Jerusalem! People would gather around because they assumed that all the blood at his feet was the blood of the Lamb, but it was actually children-blood! The blood of a million children's uniform pants! And the blood would not turn into wine! He would use his influence to convince people to give up their children to his tutelage! He made it rain toothbrushes so that there wouldn't be but one dirty toilet-bowl in all the four-corners of the earth! Because the earth is flat, and so it only stands to reason that it has four corners! And folksy punishments fly in the face of a culture absent of values! This false prophet was given authority over a small flock hidden way, way down in the valley where no one ever went, so no one could hear him sowing lies in the ears of God's children! But God saw him and judged his heart!'"
It's this dense throughout, a veritable madhouse of flying ideas and hallucinations, all of which get boiled down to poignant moments on the album, where Tillman sings, "When it's my time to go/Gonna leave behind things that won't decompose/I'll just go on and call this what it is/My vanity gone wild with my crisis/One day this all might repeat/I sure hope they made something useful out of me," and time stands drunk and still. It's pure genius, plain and simple.
Father John Misty Official Site
Sub Pop Records