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

Is waiting

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

Is optimizing

Items move into place

Updating components

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

patrickbenchcroppedPatrick 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]

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