“Pure Comedy” is the third album by Father John Misty. (Courtesy of Bella Union)
The last time Josh Tillman released a Father John Misty album was back in 2015. “I Love You, Honeybear” delved into Tillman’s idea of love and his impressions of humanity. Now, on “Pure Comedy,” he picks up where he left off on songs like “Bored In The USA” and “Holy Shit” to discuss humanity, capitalism and religion.
Opening with its title track, “Pure Comedy” informs its audience that the album will be tackling “the comedy of man.” Though humans are selfish, he ultimately believes that “they’re totally obsessed” with religion.
He questions if the people in power who claim to be religious are lying to themselves because “they build fortunes poisoning their offspring.” Big tobacco, for example, poisons millions of people in America, and people who smoke around their children are poisoning them as well. Tillman has commented numerous times on religion on all of Father John Misty’s albums, but this time it is one of the focus points alongside humanity’s current state.
“When The God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay” is not only the most pleasing moment on the album, it is also one of the darkest. Tillman describes what he would say when God returns to judge all that live on Earth. Instead of humanity having “Hell to pay” for all their sins, God will have to take a tour of how humanity has created its own Hell.
Referring to the Book of Revelation, Tillman mentions that a pale horse upon which Death rides “looks a little sick” because humans have already done Death’s work. Hell already lives on Earth, so humanity “[did not] leave a whole lot” for Death to do. This concept is brought up again on “Two Wildly Different Perspectives.”
While analyzing the current state of humanity, Tillman also envisions a science fiction type of future. “Total Entertainment Forever” somewhat scandalously opens with: “Bedding Taylor Swift / Every night inside the Oculus Rift.” He is imagining a future when any creepy guy can see themselves in bed with any celebrity they want. Towards the end of the song, Tillman paints an image of future historians finding our generation being “plugged into our hubs” with “A Frozen smile on every face.” The song is a warning for humanity becoming too fascinated with virtual reality.
Going in the total opposite direction of “Total Entertainment Forever,” “Things it Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” provides an insight into a future where the answer for fighting global warming is giving up all that makes life so convenient in 2017. Tillman tells stories of empty cities that came about because “industry and commerce toppled to their knees.” Though civilization fell apart, the world solved climate change. Tillman wonders how much humanity would give up to continue to inhabit Earth.
Tillman also could not go without criticizing himself on the 74-minute album. “Leaving LA” is self-described in the song as a “10 verse, chorus-less diatribe.” He goes on to poke fun at the online music blogs that constantly report on his every action, but still admits he enjoys it. Throughout the 13-minute epic, Tillman describes his thought process of starting Father John Misty.
He did not want to be “another white guy in 2017 who takes himself so goddamn seriously,” but still wishes for critical acclaim. Though Tillman has received great reviews on all Father John Misty releases, he predicts that his “college dude” fan base would leave because of “Pure Comedy.” He thinks the new album would make them hate him.
Musically, Tillman has paid more attention to instrumental sections. “So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain” features a five-minute instrumental section based around two chords. There are several occasions throughout “Pure Comedy” that have digital bits coming in and out of each song. He has tried many new tactics to his songwriting on this album, and they totally work. It is safe to say that “Pure Comedy” is pure gold.