Album Review: Pure Comedy by Father John Misty

Joshua Tillman is an artist who is as ambitious as he is frustrating, and so many listeners adore him for his polished voice, the incredible band behind him, and unprecedented persona. Under the moniker Father John Misty, Tillman has made three studio albums since his departure from the Fleet Foxes, and while he has openly criticized the antics of the media, his music may be too original for him to appeal to the mainstream music world anyway. During his performance at the Newport Folk Festival this past summer, he told a story of how he turned down $250,000 from Chipotle to cover “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. Despite his bold and intimidating character, Tillman should be recognized by a much larger pool of listeners whether he likes it or not. On Pure Comedy, his follow-up to 2015’s commercially successful I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman creates a paradox; as much as this uncomfortable record can test your patience, it leaves you feeling a sense of ease.

The opener, the title track, and closer, “In Twenty Years or So”, somewhat work hand in hand with each other, as the former ends with Tillman singing “Just random matter suspended in the dark / I hate to say it, but each other’s all we got,” and the latter fades out after he repeats “There’s nothing to fear,” three times. This perceived connection is evident, Tillman believes that support and hope complement each other. On “Total Entertainment Forever,” the opening lyrics, “Bedding Taylor Swift / Every night inside the Oculus Rift,” sparked plenty of questions, and while Tillman has said that this is the worst thing that could happen to Swift, he included the line to emphasize the dangerous direction of the entertainment industry and perhaps the most important question of the entire album: Are we progressing? The third track, “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution”, seems to refer to global warming and the way in which America looks at it, and the melody sounds very Elton John-esque. The song that follows, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, which is probably my favorite on the record, consists of everything that Tillman does well vocally and instrumentally.

The song that can really strain you mentally is the 13-minute-long, 10-verse “Leaving LA” which is ironic because Tillman is somewhat straining himself by basically scrutinizing his character and his music, hence the lyric, “So why is it I’m so distraught / That what I’m selling is getting bought / At some point you just can’t control / What people use your fake name for.” After this essentially unfinished track, as he ends the song with “But what we both think now is…,” we listen to Tillman’s desire to share with God the current, and dire, nature of today’s world with “When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay”. Furthermore, the track before the closer, “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain” has the ability to put any Father John Misty fan into an almost anaesthetic trance.

After Father John Misty released the title track of Pure Comedy as a single back in January, we could tell that he was up to something, and due to the state of our country, necessary. Pure Comedy is pure brilliance from every angle, and I am not sure how he will be able to top it. This album is truly one-of-a-kind.

To stream the full album, visit the link: