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Father John Misty: Pure Comedy

by Justin Jacobs on April 19, 2017
Since 2012, Father John Misty has been indie rock’s most fascinating enigma. When Ryan Adams grew out of his bratty and brilliant persona, Misty (or Joshua Tillman) picked up the torch—he’s serious but self-effacing, making headlines for hilariously trolling artists and delivering cultural diatribes onstage. However, his own records, debut Fear Fun and 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear, consist of honest, affecting, if at times sinister, folk tunes. Disdaining pop culture while creating his own love-it-or-leave-it art has painted him as a modern-day Lou Reed. With third album Pure Comedy, Father John Misty goes all in—there hasn’t been a rock record this unabashedly self-aware and critical of modern life in years. There’s only one problem with Pure Comedy, but it’s hard to skip over. While his lyrics have never been more acerbic, his songcraft doesn’t match up. Most songs strike the same hushed, string-laden, low-tempo shuffle; with 13 tracks in about 75 minutes, meanders too often through the mist. And yet, the album is impossible to ignore. On the title track, Tillman dismantles man’s self-importance, smirking with unbelievable clarity and a lilting, piano-led arrangement. “Their religions are the best. They worship themselves, but they’re totally obsessed with risen zombies, celestial virgins, magic tricks. They get terribly upset if you question their sacred texts, written by woman-hating epileptics,” he sings. On the 13-minute “Leaving LA,” he sets himself aflame: “Oh, great, that’s just what they all need—another white guy in 2017 who takes himself so goddamn seriously.” Lyrically, Pure Comedy is pure gold. But even the most word-driven folk can benefit from a surgeon’s knife. With a little editing, the album could’ve been magnificent.

Authors: Justin Jacobs
Artist: Father John Misty
Album: Pure Comedy
Label: Sub Pop