Published Sep 24, 2020As Fear of Death goes on, it becomes an increasingly special and heartfelt album, and a masterpiece from Tim Heidecker. Spurred on by a quickly established friendship with Weyes Blood's Natalie Mering and her colleague, Drew Erickson, Heidecker marvelled at how a lush and beautifully orchestrated collection of 12 songs about mid-life were appreciated and brought to life by a wondrous band.
For those who follow Heidecker's intricately vast comedy universe, which is often fuelled by meta caricatures and satire so rich, it can be tricky to tell reality from fiction, "Prelude to Feeling" might hint at more gentle pranking to come. But, as he and Mering sing sweetly together, welcoming us to their album, there is no mistaking the sincerity of the sentiment.
"The city's hot / And it stinks!" Heidecker hollers, leading the chorus of the rollicking "Come Away with Me," which is a love song about being so sick of a place and the way you're living in it that you'd do anything to leave. By the next song, the lovely, Paul Simon-indebted "Backwards," Heidecker and Mering are literally singing "Oh Canada," and one can only wonder if the California-based bandleader has read enough writing on American walls to finally move his family up here.
There's definitely some loose and laidback jam band-inspired stuff here, like the title track, "Say Yes," and "Long as I've Got You," where you can almost see the sun shining into the band's eyes on some summer festival stage.
The truly revelatory things, though, are the ballads, which Heidecker revealed a penchant for on 2019's What the Brokenhearted Do… But these ones are more ambitious — harmonized vocals and string sections propel "Someone Who Can Handle You" and the Mering-led, "Oh How We Drift Away" into Elton John/John Lennon territory. And "Nothing" is a perfect storm — a clever arrangement with some of Heidecker's best, wittiest and honest (and misty-eyed) lyricism.
On the artistic run of his life of late, with films, TV shows, a podcast, and a compelling command of most of the "platforms" we all use, Tim Heidecker should be immensely proud of Fear of Death. It owes something to the great songwriters and studio tones of the 1970s, but it's also strikingly timeless and authentic rock music, helmed by an underground Renaissance man. (Spacebomb Records)