Tim Heidecker: Fear of Death (Spacebomb) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020  

Tim Heidecker

Fear of Death

Spacebomb

Sep 29, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Tim Heidecker is best known for his nearly 20 years with the comedy duo Tim & Eric, but his musical ventures are often more serious affairs. His 2019 album What the Brokenhearted Do… imagined a fictional divorce from his wife, and his latest follow up, Fear of Death, conjures a similarly morose ’70s singer/songwriter pastiche. This time around, though, he has an assist from an all-star cast of 1970s pop revivalists; Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood), Drew Erickson, The Lemon Twigs’ Brian and Michael D’Addario, and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado all add their talents to the mix. As the steel pedal flecked opening track warns, “Put your headphones on if you dare/You’re about to feel.” 

Fans of Heidecker’s solo work likely know what to expect going into Fear of Death. Heidecker’s affection for Laurel Canyon 1970s pop, such as Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman, is well known and his newest work faithfully recreates its sound. While Heidecker wears his influences on his sleeve, the addition of his collaborators, Natalie Mering especially, enhances the record immeasurably. Mering is a near-constant presence, adding gorgeous background vocals on nearly every song and taking the lead for the closer “Oh How We Drift Away.” The meditative piano, swelling string orchestra, and layered vocals all give the track a distinctly Weyes Blood feel, so much so you’d be excused for thinking it was a lost cut off 2019’s Titanic Rising. It is a fitting closer to the record, delivering all of the otherworldly gravitas of Mering’s best work. 

Heidecker himself holds the record down admirably as well. His writing sports a certain sardonic charm that results in tracks such as “Property,” which imagines land developers tearing into cemeteries for their newest high rises and coffee shops. It is a darkly ironic proposition, the sort of mordant musing that Heidecker delivers best. The record relies on his acerbic wit far more than any of the laughs of Heidecker’s comedic work.

Indeed, the record’s primary consideration is death itself, allowing Heidecker to vent his own angst at reaching middle age and musing at what comes after death. The title track sees Heidecker swear off partying and risk singing, “I don’t want to leave the house again/No more partying/I learned all I am gonna learn/I think I’m done growing.” It’s undoubtedly a bleak consideration to confront impending mortality, but Heidecker delivers the track with an upbeat jam band feel, complete with a winding guitar solo. Later, the haunting folk rock ballad “Nothing” sees Heidecker grapple with these thoughts as he lives the busy Hollywood life. He muses, “Stuck in traffic on Beverly Glen/Running late meeting Hollywood friends/Do they even know how this shit show ends?” before noting, “Nothing/That’s what it amounts to they say.”

Fortunately, the whole record isn’t quite so downcast that it becomes a slog. “Come Away With Me” is a buoyant and catchy tribute to country living, delivered through an upbeat southern rock pastiche. Similarly, Mering and Heidecker duet on a country reimagining of The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” While it may not be replacing the original it does offer a solid take on a classic and a sweet moment of levity in the tracklist. Heidecker also delivers one of his best chugging classic rock tracks with “Long As I Got You” before Mering ends with her chamber pop finale. Although much of the album wrestles with imminent mortality, Heidecker delivers the record with a lighthearted touch and a collaborative feel that makes it more fun than it has any right to be.

A “serious” album from an established comedian is often regarded with a certain degree of skepticism. With a few notable exceptions, such as Donald Glover’s work as Childish Gambino, such records are weighed down with the baggage of the artists’ surrounding work. Fortunately, Fear of Death comes off as far from a vanity project. Heidecker doesn’t attempt much outside of his well-worn influences but he doesn’t really need to. The project succeeds on its own terms as an outlet for Heidecker’s existential meditations and a seamless collaboration with a band of friends in his ’70s revivalist lane. Despite the humble aspirations, Fear of Death is Tim Heidecker’s most complete musical venture yet. (www.timheidecker.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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