May 23, 2022

It’s story, and a basic American one. Tillman rolled into Los Angeles seeking new beginnings and reinvention. And Worry Enjoyable was that throughout the board. J. Tillman was lengthy gone. Father John Misty had a sleeker look, a biting and sardonic viewpoint, and songs that, true to the album’s title, had been enjoyable. FJM’s debut nonetheless had loads of lovely sighing folk-rock, nevertheless it additionally had rambling psychedelia and a free exploratory sensibility. On the time, I had solely passing consciousness of the J. Tillman albums, and principally heard this because the unexpectedly addicting solo debut from the previous Fleet Foxes drummer. However, in any other case, context nonetheless dogged Tillman.

Tillman had created a brand new inventive id for himself, which naturally led everybody to assume this was some type of bit: “Introspective Pacific Northwest songwriter reborn as hedonistic LA shaman rocker” is such an efficient story that folks certainly thought it was a narrative. Questions of who the true Tillman and who the true Father John Misty had been abound, as if all of it couldn’t be a chaotic coexistence fueling Tillman’s newly vibrant music. He spent a great deal of that press rollout, and a not insignificant period of time since, explaining that each one of this was extra authentically him than any of the put-on gravity of J. Tillman. Alongside the best way, there could be a lot meta-commentary on efficiency and popular culture, and finally so many press hijinks, that it could proceed to be tempting to know Father John Misty as an ego-tripping prankster cooked up by Tillman. However on Worry Enjoyable and all its successors, the music all the time held up irrespective of how a lot you had been amused or exhausted by all the opposite trappings of FJM.

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All these years later, Worry Enjoyable nonetheless has a handful of the FJM all-timers. It opens with “Funtimes In Babylon,” partially his self-aware reckoning along with his recent begin in SoCal, wearily promising, “Look out Hollywood, right here I come”; the title nonetheless serves as a theme for lots of FJM music, mulling over leisure and distraction and self-destruction underneath both the numbness of late capitalism or a fracturing modern society. “Nancy From Now On” was a shock again then — who knew this man may write a cooing, infectious little pop tune like this? The melodies proved unshakeable all through, whether or not within the rollicking “I’m Writing A Novel” or “Tee Pees 1-12,” the dramatic conclusions of “Solely Son Of A Women’ Man” and “This Is Sally Hatchet,” or the candy guitar strains and harmonies of “Misty’s Nightmare 1 & 2.” And naturally, Worry Enjoyable gave us “Hollywood Perpetually Cemetery Sings,” one thing of an outlier within the nice FJM scheme of issues in that he’s hardly ever written one other unabashed rocker.

On paper, nearly none of this could’ve labored. It’s a brief, quick record of drummers for bands who strike out and make nice solo music that would finally eclipse their previous gig. Tillman’s transformation from J. to Father John may’ve failed miserably. However even with out realizing the person’s full backstory in 2012, I may hear Tillman’s new discovery on Worry Enjoyable. The entire thing is animated, free-wheeling — exhilarated even in its calmer moments. Tillman in all probability understood this all had narrative hook, however on the identical degree he additionally knew how ridiculous this all sounded; when he introduced his departure from Fleet Foxes, he mentioned he was headed again to the “maw of obscurity.” He knew, traditionally talking, his possibilities weren’t nice right here. And but, for those who revisit any interviews from 2012, you additionally see a person with a brand new sense of self and function. It was all the time murky, and generally made extra opaque by him, however FJM was Tillman being sincere, being himself.

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That started with Worry Enjoyable, which suggests sure, you get a little bit of Tillman’s freewheeling hallucinogenic days, and also you get a little bit of Tillman taking part in with the fragments of California: the previous “go west” iconography blended with the banalities of a up to date Laurel Canyon now populated by high-power brokers actually into wellness tradition. However in one of many album’s most direct moments, in its nearer “Each Man Wants A Companion,” you get the true which means of all of it:

Joseph Campbell and the Rolling Stones
Couldn’t give me a fable
So I needed to write my very own
Like I’m hung up on faith
Although I do know it’s a waste
I by no means preferred the title Joshua
I acquired uninterested in J

To get so far, Tillman had shed lots of the previous. He’d do this once more. Even inside Father John Misty, his id appeared to continuously modulate: The cynic nonetheless anxious however totally embracing romantic establishments on I Love You, Honeybear, the LSD-addled city crier in the course of the Pure Comedy period, the sobered crash touchdown reflections of God’s Favourite Buyer. After which it was on to one among his largest surprises with Chloë And The Subsequent twentieth Century, reemerging after 4 years and press blackouts with an album that includes his most extreme musical departures but.

During the last 10 years, Tillman has one-upped himself time and again. Worry Enjoyable is now the charming, scrappy opening chapter. He’s bettered himself in nearly each manner since then, along with his songwriting and self-reflexive commentary each rising extra nuanced by means of the last decade. However, there’s nonetheless that electrical energy, that freedom, working by means of Worry Enjoyable if you return to all of it this time later. You’ll be able to nonetheless hear the power of a person actually discovering who he’s. It’s been a hell of a experience with Tillman since. Right here’s to a different 10 years of unusual encounters, misadventures, hilarity and poignance within the face of looming disaster, love in instances of despair, and transformations no person can see coming.

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