Father John Misty - Pure Comedy
- Released: April 7 2017
- Label: Sub Pop
Pure Comedy, the latest album from Joshua Tillman, better known as Father John Misty, poses the artist’s many questions on, while simultaneously forming a deeply cynical critique of, fame, politics, consumerism, entertainment, religion and quite frankly the state of our current society as a whole.
All the aforementioned, and much more, lead to a perplexed Tillman crafting masterful lyrics around his ideas that human existence is often ludicrous but always ‘pure comedy’. The title track, and album opener sets the tone for the next 75 minutes, particularly with its bellowing final verse “Oh comedy, oh it’s like something that a madman would conceive!”
Musically, Tillman picks up from where he left off on 2015’s incredible I Love You, Honeybear, backing his musings with soulful acoustic guitar and the odd appearance of a choir or orchestra, resulting in a sound that wouldn’t be out of place on the early works of Elton John. There’s not a huge amount of upgrade in the musicality of Tillman’s work to be found here, but that doesn’t really matter, because the genius of his work lies in his words.
A little starker, and certainly more confrontational than its more personal, lovelorn predecessor, Pure Comedy holds no prisoners, and that includes Tillman himself as he considers his standing in everything he questions.
The beauty of the album lays in the way Tillman paints himself through his vocals as a social critic, providing profound commentary on humanity, yet he does so with just a hint of irony. Anyone who had the pleasure of following Father John Misty’s Instagram page before its untimely demise will know that he appears to be taking his growing fame in his stride and toying with it for his own amusement.
He’s not afraid to shift his lyrical focus and launch scathing rants against the masses, but he does identify the effect this could have on his commercial popularity. Pure Comedy’s central 13-minute epic Leaving L.A. dedicates a verse solely to this matter “Some 10-verse chorus-less diatribe plays as they all jump ship, I used to like this guy. This new shit really kinda makes me wanna die"
Standout tracks aren’t hard to come by on Pure Comedy, an impressive feat for an album clocking in at roughly an hour and a quarter. Particular highlights include an ode to a reflection on youth, on the beautiful So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain, and the track that perhaps best summarises everything Tillman tries to say throughout the record’s runtime, Ballad Of The Dying Man.
Despite it’s relatively early placing of fourth in the tracklist, the track’s narrative finishes fittingly with a verse as the titular character wastes his final moments in typical millennial fashion “Eventually the dying man takes his final breath. But first checks his newsfeed to see what he's about to miss”. The song leaves the listener pondering what arguably seems to be Tillman’s overarching thoughts towards our ‘comedic’ existence “And it occurs to him a little late in the game. We leave as clueless as we came”.