Album Review: Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

By Devon Hannan, Features Editor
[Sub Pop; 2017]
Rating: 5.5/10

Key Tracks: “Total Entertainment Forever,” “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution,” “Two Wildly Different Perspectives”

Pure Comedy comes as no surprise; It’s a caricature of modern society, swarming with political and anti-capitalist motives all while being incredibly nihilist. In other words, it’s a spitting image of the man who made it: Josh Tillman. The most pretentious man in folk-pop, Father John Misty set the bar high with his 2015 release, I Love You, Honeybear, and Pure Comedy is unable to reach it. Pure Comedy may be one giant satirical joke, but Father John Misty has told it too many times.

The lyrical composition on this album has been coming out of Tillman’s mouth for the past two years on every single square inch of his social media platform, and while it may be worn out, it isn’t badly written. Pure Comedy just doesn’t have a lot of substance to back it up. If this album had the same instrumental capacity as Honeybear, it would have easily been the best thing he has ever put out to date. It’s really depressing to think about; This album isn’t a flop, but it could have been so much better.

With that being said, Pure Comedy has some really incredible moments. For example, the middle of “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” slaps. Tillman layers his vocals in such a way that reflects strapping urgency and then combines it with slick low brass, making it something that he has never done before. Where was this on the rest of the album? There can only be so many “woooahoo’s” until it gets to the point of being redundant and uninteresting. At the very least, Father John, don’t make this the basis of a 13–minute track (“Leaving LA”). We get it. You can hit a falsetto. . . You’ve been doing that since the first track on Fear Fun, bucko.

Pure Comedy is Father John’s toned town (still pretentious) end-of-the-word farewell ballad and he needs over the top instrumentation – another “Chateau Lobby,” if you will. After the first few tracks, Tillman’s third album trails off into an abyss of long, drawn out piano parts. While some may feel that this move is self-reflective and a more intimate take on society’s imminent doom, it’s just not enough; If we’re all going to implode at the Earth’s center, we may as well have a mariachi band and a big trumpet solo to accompany us on the way out.

Most of these tracks would have worked really well if they had been surrounded by some kind of instrumental diversity, and that is absolutely where Pure Comedy misses the mark. To be fair, “Bored In The USA” and “Holy Shit” are also relatively quiet political tracks; However, they worked so well on Honeybear because they gave some kind of contrast to Tillman’s over-adorned love affair. On Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman still has yet to write a powerhouse of a political track – But maybe that’s the point. Maybe Pure Comedy wasn’t meant to be over the top, but rather bore you. . . Or perhaps he just wants you to hate him.

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