Fear Fun is the debut album from former Fleet Foxes sticksman Joshua Tillman in his new guise as the minister of the church of the broken heart, Father John Misty. When you've spent time with one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the last five years going solo is a risky business so it's not surprising that Joshua hasn't strayed too far from the well trodden Fleet Foxes path. There's no dabbling in witch house, death metal or electro pop on this album. No, as you would no doubt expect, he serves up a feast of wholesome, melodic adult oriented rock that'll bring a smile to the middle aged readers of Mojo.
Despite heading straight for the centre of the comfort zone Fear Fun is more than a mere imitation. This is not simply Fleet Foxes by numbers. Indeed the album's highlight, the truly transcendant 'Hollywood Cemetery Sing', has more soul than the entire Fleet Foxes back catalogue put together. Hell it's got more soul than a gospel choir at the pearly gates. With a chorus of "Jesus Christ girl what are people gonna think" it could well be the first thought that crossed his mind when he decided to leave his commercially and critically successful alma mata for life as a solo artist.
'Hollywood Cemetery Sing's' preceding track, the lyrically impressive 'Nancy From Now On', is another track that surpasses much of the Fleet Foxes' repertoire with Joshua's rich, quavering vocals sounding like he's been possessed by the spirit of Roy Orbison. if Andrew Lloyd Webber is considering an Orbison based musical he should sign up Joshua before it's too late. The schizophrenic 'This Is Sally Hatchet' starts off as a scrawny, under fed pop rocker which, after Joshua throws it some raw meat to chew on, transforms into a thumping, theatrical rocker with a riff that Led Zeppelin would be proud of.
Unfortunately, despite these three impressive songs, the album's supporting cast rarely rise above the merely ok. 'I'm Writing A Novel' sounds like a cover of a long lost Beatles reject recently uncovered in an outhouse in Menlove Avenue. It might have sounded great with Lennon's coarse growl but Joshua's voice just doesn't suit the song. 'Well You Can Do It Without Me' couldn't be more filler if it came in a tub marked no sanding required and 'Misty's Nightmares 1 & 2' is so dull it sounds like the only nightmares he has are about the impact of the euro crisis on his pension pot. This is a song so boring it's the closest you'll get to hearing paint dry.
Fear Fun will no doubt have elderly readers of Mojo salivating. With a few exceptions it's middle of the road music for middle aged middle managers. Men for whom growing a beard is a revolutionary act. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that, I like my music to be a little younger, a little fresher, a little more exciting. It's an album that sounds like a dusty relic from the attic of a house Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young shared in the 70s. If Joshua had written 12 tracks of the quality and majesty of Hollywood Cemetery Sing then Fear Fun would be the album of the decade. If it was a three track ep it'd be up there with my favourite eps of the year. Unfortunately it's little more than an ok album with a couple of outstanding tracks. Fear Fun packs a little too much paunch but at least it's better than anything Ringo or Phil Collins ever recorded.