A Review of Fear Fun by Patrick Gaughan
Shane Ryan of Paste Magazine says, “A hidden motive of most indie musicians is to make the audience feel cool. It’s part of the transaction.”
Josh Tillman takes off his sunglasses in the Bing Lounge in Portland. He says, “I feel pretentious.”
An interviewer relays Tillman’s recent history back to him: You find yourself in your home in Seattle, depressed. You quit Fleet Foxes. You drive to LA and live in a red-clay adobe pueblo. You write a novel, cut your hair, and write songs under a new name: Father John Misty. You find your self.
Tillman says he has nothing much to add “to that brilliant Harold Bloom-style insight into my narrative.”
Deepak Chopra says, “You will find your purpose by living your daily life with openness, humility, and full awareness.”
Tillman parks his van in Laurel Canyon, a hippie fantasyland since Crosby, Stills, & Nash jammed at Joni Mitchell’s bungalow.
He calls the novel Mostly Hypothetical Mountains. Chapter 19 begins: “I’d only been to Babylon about a week before an energy healer approached me in the parking lot asking if I had any carpentry experience.”
At WikiHow.com/Find-Yourself, I find direction: Create your own life timeline. Prepare to begin again with a clean slate. Let go of the need to be loved by all. Learn to rely on yourself. Sort out your career path. Immerse yourself in solitude. Ask yourself every question in the book. Keep a written record of your answers. Act upon your newly discovered knowledge.
Tillman takes the above advice. He also takes shrooms.
He says, “I didn’t want any alter-egos, any vagaries, fantasy, escapism, any over-wrought sentimentality.”
From Tillman’s “I’m Writing a Novel”:
I ran down the road
Pants down to my knees
Screaming, ‘Please, come help me! That Canadian shaman
Gave a little too much to me’
And I’m writing a novel
Because it’s never been done before
In “Helplessness Blues,” by Tillman’s old band, Fleet Foxes, band leader Robin Pecknold sings, “What’s my name? / What’s my station? / Oh, just tell me what I should do,” as acoustic guitars soar like hugs on a hilltop at sunset, the arrangement attempting to validate Pecknold’s indecision, a lost self, a search for a nonexistent simple life. He sings “If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore / and you would wait tables and soon run the store,” as if his true self wants to own a pre-Dust-Bowl-Era farm and rope some poor woman into his unsubstantiated romantic vision of subsistence farming.
Tillman says, “I see a lot of rampant, sexless, male-fantasy everywhere in the music around me.”
I apply for a summer job at Red Fire Farm in Montague, Massachusetts. I kneel in the dirt, my back hunched in noon sun, cutting cilantro out of the ground, binding it with a twisty-tie, along with Senegalese immigrants and recent college graduates. After an hour, I walk to my car.
My therapist says, “Yeah, I can’t see you on a farm.”
Singing Ax, Tillman’s last album under his own name, opens with a dirge deep in a woods of minor chords. He sings, “Who will love a loveless thing? / Betrayed by God, exiled by beast.”
Grayson Perry says, “The monk-artist is an attractive archetype in a world where there are only so many – the belligerent drunk, the batty dame, the flaming tortured fool.”
In the wake of commercial country, of Garth Brooks, Billy Ray Cyrus and their acolytes, comes a group of traditionalists, alt-country-folk-rockers who pledge to uphold the roots, stay true to folk’s true self, wear period costume and sing lyrics tied to another time.
I hear “Your Protector” by Fleet Foxes on the coffee shop speakers.
Tillman is playing tonight. The venue’s promotional tweet says, “Father John Misty brings hip-shaking, pelvic-thrusting good times to Terminal 5.” Tillman may be the first man in alt-country-folk-rock to share equal billing with his midsection.
An interviewer goes to Tillman’s pueblo and looks at his paintings. None are titled except for one called Mona Lisa 2.
From “Every Man Needs a Companion”:
Joseph Campbell and The Rolling Stones
Couldn’t give me a myth
So I had to write my own
It was time, as Dave Hickey says, to “shed the ludicrous, God-like mantle of auteur.”
When I see Tillman live in January, he stops the music for a parable: One day you wake up and someone tells you there’s great cupcakes at this place so you go and there’s a line around the block. You’re curious and have nothing better to do so you wait and while you wait, life elapses, you fall in and out of love, friends join you in line then leave, you step forward when the person in front of you steps forward, it’s a calling, a self, and one day you get to the door, and they’re out of cupcakes.
Chevrolet debuts their latest ad campaign, “Find New Roads,” during the Olympic Games, each ad touting a different Chevy model:
Cruze: #The New World
Impala: #The New Sanctuary
Tahoe: #The New Premium
Volt: #The New Freedom
Traverse: #The New Us
The New You
A You built on change
As The Old You
Masturbates in the shower
Pictures the sunset
Old Hairs grow back thicker
New Razor, same face
Same You, same fork
In the Old Sports Bar Salad
A New Sanctuary
Items move into place
The machine says The New
“You saved twelve cents”
As You scan the can of beans
The New You
Does not do one thing well
It does everything well
Inspired by its past
Driven by its future
The New World
Knows what You stand for
Knows where You’re going
Where your family is going
A Premium Sports Bar
A change in the air
Things feel different, better
Tomorrow, they’ll be better still
Patrick Gaughan is a poet, performer, & critic living in Northampton, MA. He contributes regularly to Blunderbuss. Find other recent work in BOMB, The Volta, Sink Review, & Diagram. He’s an ensemble player in the Connecticut River Valley Poets’ Theater. [tumblr] [twitter]
Questions, compliments, (hopefully not) complaints?
Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.
Read more Poets off Poetry here.
Follow Poets off Poetry on Twitter: @nohelpforthat