Since the day I first heard the pounding drums and nearly perfect guitar intro of Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings, I have been craving more Father John Misty. Fear Fun, the 2012 release from Josh Tillman’s drug-fueled alter ego, was in heavy rotation for months after its release, then before this tour stop at Pittsburgh’s Mr. Small’s venue and then leading up to early 2015 release of I Love You, Honeybear.
The natural excitement that accompanies learning a new record is set to release is only matched by learning what crazy preorder bundles are available from the Sub Pop Megamart. Though a fan of vinyl, I opted against it here for two reasons. 1. The album art is quite unattractive to me. Certainly, art is art, but a baby Josh Tillman suckling at the teat of some unknown religious figure does not lend itself to being displayed in my office. 2. A double album requires too many actions to listen to the 11-tracks in their entirety. Before I took my business to Amazon, something caught my eye: a cassette.
That’s right. If you preordered the FJM album you received some bonuses that included demo recordings of I Love You, Honeybear on cassette. My last tape purchase was a Ra Ra Riot The Rhumb Line cassette sold only at shows a few years back. I was due for some cassette deck popping.
The demos have some obvious highs and lows that make it worth a listen if you can locate any tape players. Mine is a bright blue and grey Emerson beauty that is at least 15 years young and going strong. It took me a while to figure out up from down and A from B. I became crippled with panic when I thought I hit record instead of play. Other than that, it was an experience in pleasure.
The demo high: One track that did little for my on the album was “I Went To The Store One Day.” It is a song that, in some literal detail, explains the process of Tillman meeting his now-wife in a liquor store. Lyrically, it is full of convincing sincerity, but lack on musicality. This is a much different experience on the demo. On the demo, there is a such an expression of personal intimacy that the strings on the album version remove. The strings add to the sweetness of song, but ultimately, the intimacy is the “must have” component.
The demo low: A track that has become the lead single on the album is Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins). It is clear why. The opening guitar chord and vocals are instantly engaging. The production and mix of the track is so spot on that the listener stays hooked throughout the two minutes and 50 seconds that represent the perfect length for the song. The demo on the tape represents a much less developed, refined sound. This is the perfect argument for the benefits of high-level production to transform a raw idea into a completed, perfected sound.
The demo tie. Another standout track from the album, Bored in the USA, is also a standout on the demo. The most notable difference is the absence of the laugh track on the demo. The choice to include the canned laughs on the album version is an interesting choice considering the heartfelt lyrical content. The truth is that I was one of the people laughing the first time I heard the tune at Mr. Small’s as FJM and the stellar band where playing new material well ahead of the next albums release. There is something about hearing “Keep my prescriptions filled. Now, I can’t get off, but I kind of deal with being bored in the USA” that does elicit a chuckle or two. The song is obviously ripe with satire as the title alone sparks thoughts of Springsteen, which makes the laugh track fit. Without the laughter, though, the listener does have a better opportunity to appreciate the voice and tone. I guess that’s while it’s a tie.
Consume.Review.Repeat. gives Father John Misty’s I Luv You, HB Demos 7.5 malapropisms out of 10.
FJM includes some listening instructions for the album that are curious and a bit lofty. Sorry Josh, my access to specific makes and models of Cadillacs are limited. Please consider my listening instructions for the demo tape:
- Grab your tape deck. Preferably a 1999 Emerson electric blue tape/CD/AM/FM combo.
- Head to your 49 degree garage to do some spring cleaning as your kids watch Disney’s animated Robin Hood on Netflix.
- Put on your all white Starberry high tops left over from that Halloween that you were Zack Morris.
- Become completely confused when the music stops and you hear a loud click.
- Remember that tapes need to be flipped and do so.
- Figure out a place to hang the clay bird house that your wife made when she was 8.
- Rock out and remember that life is good.