In 2012, exhausted by being an inconsistent version of himself, Joshua Tillman stopped being the drummer for Fleet Foxes and found his true self as the idiosyncratic solo provocateur Father John Misty. Psych-pop purveyor NANCY bears many similarities: his new album, 7 Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues, has a lyrically intriguing title that feels like it could have been conjured from the mind of Father John himself; with his towering frame (NANCY is 7 feet tall, if you hadn’t yet deduced from the title) and shaggy, long hair, he even looks like a haphazard British version of him.
What’s most similar, though, is their musical journey. NANCY used to write for Brighton alt-rock band TIGERCUB, but found himself hiding behind a veil of slacker introversion, the wrong outlet for him. This solo album, then, is a coming out party, a wild invocation of independence. It’s a daunting task but a worthwhile one, as these songs prove.
NANCY’s album bubbles with discovered confidence, always playful and inventive from the off. 7 Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues completes a trilogy of mini-albums for NANCY, following 2018’s Mysterious Visions and last year’s Happy Oddities. The 10 tracks on this new offering are sexy and dirty, sleazy and murky, the sound of going to a punk dive bar just before it closes; he often feels like a lost character of the 70s glam rock set.
The opening title track sees NANCY recalling his progression from being an outcast child in the tough landscape of Sunderland to a person comfortable with his personality. “I used to worry but I can’t pay it any more mind / I used to think that I was bad to be one of a kind / Don’t you worry, baby, I’m alright / I used to cry but now, I think it’s tight,” he sings at the start, warbling with attitude, before a woozy and weird key change towards the end (he’s called the record bipolar and sonically it is). The mesmerising “Pleasure Pen” is pure twinkling psych-pop that invites you into the dream, where NANCY’s alluring drawl awaits (the song is based on the sadomasochist novella Venus in Furs, if anything else needs to be said).
Eccentric stylistic changes abound. The lo-fi lullaby “Happy Happy Happy” and the whistling “Leave Your Cares Behind” follow, both pleasantly winding along their own paths. The fast-moving and riotous “Never Gonna Wake (Up)” reawakens proceedings, pure garage thrash (see also the metallic raucousness of “Clic Clac”). The drowning melancholic drone of “Dear Life Give Me A Sign I Am Not Alone” and the synth-driven “Don’t Pass Me By” slow things down again. “Deathmarch” is then an ominous gothic anthem to close, recalling at its start Goblin’s momentous work on the original Suspiria soundtrack.
For all their similarities, there is one key difference between NANCY and Father John Misty: the latter’s reincarnation was dramatic and fuelled by self-idolatry, but NANCY doesn’t want to be an artistic prophet, he simply wants to be himself. And, as perhaps the defining oddball pop progenitor of the noughties is appearing on Fox News as his career descends into self-inflicted flames, it feels apt to embrace someone like NANCY instead.