Father John Misty: “Pure Comedy” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

Josh Tillman has a lot on his mind. He’s always been the introspective, thinking type, but this past election sure hasn’t helped provide a remedy for his sorry and sore mind. His third album as Father John Misty is a deliciously cynical perspective of our world and its current turmoil. Pure Comedy, is truly one of the first genuine pieces of music to emerge from the debris of the dawning era that is now being branded as “Post-Trump”. As the title of the the album suggests, Tillman’s deep questioning of the world we live in, its inhabitants, and their completely insane way of journeying from the womb to the tomb leaves him in a hilariously tragic fit of laughter and sadness.

Tillman himself described his fresh approach to the record: “A lot of the songs of the first two records were like, four in the morning, drunk in bed with pizza hanging out of my mouth. It was very one to one, I had this experience and this song came to of it. This record — this is the way that I felt my whole life. So in that way I’ve been refining these ideas for a long time.”

The title track, the album’s introductory song, opens with little confusion as to what Tillman will be tackling over the next seventy five minutes: “The comedy of man starts like this/Our brains are way too big for our mothers’ hips/And so Nature, she divines this alternative/We emerged half-formed and hope that whoever greets us on the other end/Is kind enough to fill us in.” Tillman croons before going on to talk about how self-absorbed humanity has become; the planet has been breeding people who believe that “They’re at the center of everything”.

On “Total Entertainment Forever”, he broods over how this same concept of self-absorption has littered itself throughout pop culture “Bedding Taylor Swift/Every night inside the Oculus Rift” is probably the best description of millennials and their lives I’ve ever heard. Tillman. Musically, the track is juxtaposed with a backing band that sounds uncannily like an old Elton John record – like Tumbleweed Connection or Madman Across the Water.

On “The Ballad of the Dying Man”, Tillman paints a portrait of just that: someone whose time is up and he has a few final moments to reflect on his life and the world it was lived in, and to worry about “…all the overrated hacks running amok And all of the pretentious, ignorant voices that will go unchecked The homophobes, hipsters, and 1%”. 

While the album is obviously politically and socially aware, Tillman doesn’t completely abandon the loving sentimentality that made his previous release, the serendipitous I Love You, Honeybear, so enjoyable. On “Smoochie”, Josh once again pays tribute to his now-wife Emma: “When my personal demons are screaming/And when my door of madness is half-open/You stand alongside/And say something to the effect/That everything’ll be alright soon, smoochie”

Regardless – whether Tillman is complaining about “These LA phonies and their bullshit bands” (“Leaving LA”) or our current religious and political conundrum (“Two Wildly Different Perspectives”) – as Father John Mistry, he has created yet another wildly engaging album that encourages the listener to reevaluate their place in the world and their worldview, as well as trying to honestly critique his own short comings. His recent festival outbursts maybe were a bit predictive of what this album would be like, but I think we’re all surprised that Tillman turned his thoughts up to 11 on this one.