FATHER JOHN MISTY - PURE COMEDY
People are kind of moronic. Even though we are an evolved species who stands atop of the predatory food chain, we still do dumb shit like paying to watch the latest Transformers movie. Despite incredible advancements in cancer treatments - meaning death rates from the disease continue to decrease in men, woman and children, for all major racial and ethnic groups, the BBC continues to commission 'Citizen Khan'. Mere days after electing Donald Trump to the most privileged position in the free world, NASA discovers seven Earth-sized worlds that are believed to possess the qualities needed to support life. This is why it's hard to believe satirical series' such as 'The Thick Of It' or 'Veep' will continue to be made - We're already living something way funnier, and way more surreal.
Josh Tillman, for one, has noticed how dumb we all are, and his moniker Father John Misty isn’t having any of it. Misty’s new album 'Pure Comedy' plays on the idea that life has become so apocalyptically tragic due to our own stupidity, that it's just...funny.
'Pure Comedy' wastes no time in getting to the punch line. At one point, Misty even suggests taking God himself on a quick tour of his own handiwork, none of which he should be especially proud of, given that we were more or less assumed to be created in his image. The album works best when Misty is picking a fight with God or observing human nature (which is a relief, because that's pretty much the WHOLE album) all the while acknowledging the fact that people were also given a raw deal in concept.
The duality of Misty's persona: one half a cult-leader like singer delivering sermons of self and world and the other half a mordant, sardonic spirit, means that he has no choice but to express the seriousness he feels towards all this with one big exhale and a joke. In interviews, which have ranged from The Guardian, to (bizarrely) BBC Breakfast, and back to an incredibly awkward 6 Music piece in 2016 (seriously, check it out) Misty alternates between sincere and serious and deadpan and joking, and this album reflects those same dynamics.
The album also feels like the logical next step for Misty after he made headlines last summer for his depressed rant at the XPoNential Music Fest. Here, he lamented the state of the world and said it was 'impossible' for him to perform the night after Donald Trump spoke at the Republican National Convention. Misty told the outdoor audience: “I cannot play ‘Bored in the USA’ for you right now. No no no, because guess what? I soft-shoed that shit into existence by going, ‘No no no, look over here. Put your self-awareness on. It’ll never actually be that bad because we’re too smart. And while we were looking in that direction, stupidity just fucking runs the world because entertainment is stupid. Do you guys realize that? Like, that, at the core, entertainment is stupid. You’re welcome.”
It's super selfish stuff, and I wouldn't give two shits about how he felt if I had paid money to see him. He was onstage for around 12 minutes, and sung half of a cover. Just when the crowd started to get restless, angry, or a mixture of both, though, he breaks out of his depressed monologue and admits that one "isn't particularly catchy.” It’s that instant that may best sum up the album itself, and what 'Pure Comedy' was meant to eventually be. Just when it gets too political, and I, personally, begin to contemplate a role of the eyes, Misty brings me back in with some rhythm, and a terrible truth I can just sing along to. In any one else's hands the album could easily come across as one, big, musical lecture, but 'Pure Comedy' manages to sew art, entertainment and intellectual theory together into one, magnificent tapestry instead.
By the time 'Pure Comedy' reaches its 75-minute conclusion, it feels like we've just about covered everything wrong with the world we currently live in.
Can you imagine if that was on the poster, though? 'Covers everything shit about your life' is essentially what I'm saying there. It's a testament to Tillman as a songwriter though, that it isn't a chore. Like my last reviewed album 'Prisoner' from Ryan Adams, Tillman bleeds beauty out of the biggest of messes, and for that, we should all be grateful. In the closing 'In Twenty Years or So' Misty sings “It's a miracle to be alive.” As long as you keep releasing music, Josh: I agree.