Father John Misty

Pure Comedy

Sub Pop

Apr 05, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Find It At: AMAZON

After a number of solo albums as J. Tillman and a stint as Fleet Foxes' drummer, Josh Tillman created Father John Misty to find his real voice. It seems to be paying off as he moves to the third album under his eccentric moniker, a musically quieter and lyrically more expansive follow-up to 2015's I Love You, Honeybear.

Pure Comedy raises the stakes, moving from an already ambitious personal concept album to a wider exploration of what it means to be human. His trademark lyrics remain; full of intimate observation and wry humor, but the scope has blown out of all proportion. In lesser hands it could have become unwieldy and pretentious. Tillman is simply too good for that.

The title track opens, setting the stall out early. "Pure Comedy" could hardly be less ambitious, taking on the entire history of humanity over six minutes. The confusing and damaging social structures we live under take a battering, Tillman's dreamy, languid voice declaring near the end, "The only thing that seems to make them feel alive/Is the struggle to survive."

He keeps returning to the same themes, but this is no overbearing self-pitying rant. Mid-album 10-verse epic "Leaving LA," in which he tackles increasing fame amongst other things, shows his usual self-awareness when he sings, "That's just what they all need/Another white guy in 2017/Who takes himself so goddamn seriously."

While out on a limb thematically, musically Pure Comedy eschews the immediate pep and sparkle of his previous Father John Misty work. Tillman chooses a simpler acoustic set-up that brings in strings, horns, and piano to ratchet up tracks. The magic comes over time, subtle chord progressions bringing slow-burning emotion to the fore, more in keeping with the size of the thoughts he's grappling with.

The jokes are still there of course. The upbeat and technology focused "Total Entertainment Forever" finds Tillman musing upon "Bedding Taylor Swift/Every night inside the Oculus Rift." Acoustic folk singalong "The Memo" has him contemplating self-obsession with lines such as "And as the world is getting smaller, small things take up all your time/ Narcissus would have had a field day if he could have got online."

Big things are on his mind though, and the music rises to a beautiful peak to match. The soaring "So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain" will sweep anyone away, and could have carried the record alone. It doesn't need to of course. Pure Comedy is big and clever, and oh so very brilliant. (www.fatherjohnmisty.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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