The cult genius returns with spectacular, doom filled third album commentating on the downfall of humanity.
In 2015, former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty released his second solo studio album, I Love You, Honeybear, an album which saw the folk tinged singer turn into a romantic, cult icon. This week sees the release of his third album, Pure Comedy, one that sees a huge artistic development lyrically and sees the US artist tackle a huge variety of issues in his own unique way.
Pure Comedy sees Tillman taking a much darker turn in his music output perhaps due to world events over the last few years. Title track and album opener Pure Comedy riddled with political metaphors following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. Lines “Where did they find these goons they elected to rule them? / What makes these clowns they idolise so remarkable?” show the nativity of humanity whilst selfishness, fragility and gender inequality also feature in the track which with its blissful saxophone solo, manages to be serious, clever, humorous and effortless altogether. Misty addresses the split between Conservative and Liberal ideology within American politics on track Two Wildly Different Perspectives, which with lyrics “One side says
“Man, take what’s yours!” / The other says “Live on no more than you can afford” / But either way we just possess / And everyone ends up with less” sees the ideological split leading to the same eventual, negative outcome for humanity.
The downfall of humanity is a common theme seen throughout the album and Misty’s sceptical and cynical lyrics portray humankind as a species doomed for failure. In Twenty Years or So, Tillman commentates on the pointlessness of humanity. Line “This human experiment will reach its violent end” shows that one day, the human species will be gone and the track questions the importance of humanity with the view that one day it will end, whether now or in many years time. As the album’s closing track, it’s beautifully spacious with long orchestral instrumentals bringing the album to a stunning ending.
Total Entertainment Forever is a cynical, doom filled track that once again portrays a fatal ending for humanity but this time via its obsession with technology. One of the most intelligent tracks on the album, it sees the advance in technology becoming out of control, giving us unlimited and varied uses which ultimately lead to misuse such as the first line suggests, “Bedding Taylor Swift / Every night inside the Oculus Rift.” The track tackles the increase in pornography and concludes with the acknowledgement that eventually everyone will become addicted to some form of technology with the lines “When the historians find us we’ll be in our homes / Plugged into our hubs / Skin and bones / A frozen smile on every face” showing the inevitable end of the human race. The track’s addictive acoustic grunge twists and turns throughout in a gloriously dark way.
Elsewhere on the album, we are given a humorous take on alcoholism on A Bigger Paper Bag, with opening line “Dance like a butterfly and drink like a fish,” whilst When the God of Love Returns They’ll Be Hell To Pay is an intensely critical breakdown of religion and the creation of humanity. Line “Try something less ambitious the next time you get bored” is a direct taunt to deity’s to make something less destructive than the human race.
The album does provide some more intimate moments like the personal Smoochie, a romantic dedication from Tillman to his wife which addresses the singer’s battle with depression and the ability to get through it. The thirteen minute long Leaving LA was one of the artist’s hardest to finish, a track which took over three years to complete and sees Misty critiquing “LA phones and their bulls**t bands” before turning the track into an introspective and self-depreciating analysis of the artist himself. Standout track The Memo tackles perception, false belief and misinformation on a track that criticises society. Lines “But that your hunger will only cease / If you come binge on radiant blandness / At the disposable feast” show our reliance on cultural norms whilst managing to criticise sport, music, drugs, technology amongst others throughout the track.
There is no doubt about the ability of Father John Misty as a songwriter. He knows how best to play to his strengths and the track’s calm musical approach allows Misty to layer on his unique brand of scepticism, cynicism and negativity whilst leaving pauses for darts of musical injection – whether that be from horns or strings, it bolsters the tracks. The sheer ability to be able to tackle so many issues faced in the current world is admirable and his manipulation of language and topics creates an album of startling quality. It’s a masterpiece for Tillman and sets the bar for all albums so far in 2017.