Father John Misty – Pure Comedy - 2017 Indie Folk Rock Sunset Cover 2LP
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Sub Pop – SP1200
2 × Vinyl, LP, Album, sunset cover
07 Apr 2017
A1 Pure Comedy
A2 Total Entertainment Forever Play
A3 Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution
A4 Ballad Of The Dying Man
B2 Leaving LA
C1 A Bigger Paper Bag
C2 When the God Of Love Returns There'll Be Hell To Pay
C4 Two Wildly Different Perspectives Play
C5 The Memo
D1 So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain
D2 In Twenty Years or So
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sub Pop Records
Copyright (c) – Sub Pop Records
Barcode and Other Identifiers
Barcode (Scanned): 098787120011
Barcode (Printed): 0 98787 12001 1
( pitchfork) "If his confessions favor ironic distance, his big-picture theses exude something close to rapture. “The Memo,” a highlight here, smashes together cynicism and compassion, with Tillman declaring that it’s “not self-love that kills you,” it's when “those who hate you” are allowed to profit from your vulnerability. Such sermons are typically repelling, but what saves him from insufferable smartassery—for the most part—is his ability to turn yelling at clouds into a grand form of entertainment.
Pure Comedy follows the thread of Honeybear outliers “Holy Shit” and “Bored in the USA.” The latter concealed sincerity beneath melodrama, its mockery of “middle-class problems” complicated by troubling reflections on depression. Those uncomfortable collisions—bourgeois ills explored through otherwise sympathetic characters—emerge throughout Pure Comedy.
Beneath Pure Comedy’s synth-dappled country, blue-eyed soul, and pop fashioned after George Harrison is a battleground filled with religion, pop culture, technology, and neoliberalism. To open “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution,” a wonderful portrait of life after the climate apocalypse, Tillman nonchalantly topples capitalism: “It got too hot,” he sings, “And so we overthrew the system.” Midway in, an orchestral cacophony swirls into an outrageous chorus, which I’m sure Tillman would love to see quoted unabridged:
“Industry and commerce toppled to their knees
The gears of progress halted
The underclass set free
The super-ego shattered with our ideologies
The obscene injunction to enjoy life
Disappears as in a dream
And as we returned to our native state
To our primal scene
The temperature, it started dropping
And the ice floes began to freeze”
The indulgence is pure Tillman. But the passage, in all its mad glory, matches the size of the task, particularly in times of total dysfunction. It’s never been easier to sympathize with Tillman’s pomposity. Only in the song’s conclusion does the façade collapse, as “visionaries” start developing products that will rejoin this new society with capitalist realism. A cop-out, maybe, but who else would have copped in to begin with?
While “Revolution” is its least discreet flirtation with utopianism, Pure Comedy makes plenty of time to call bullshit on visionary capitalism. The title track swirls with religious fanaticism, secular ideology, and pharmaceutical greed into a repudiation of almost everything. In the last chorus—“But the only thing that they request/Is something to numb the pain with/Until there’s nothing human left”—the record hurtles into a chronically pleasurable near-future. “Total Entertainment Forever” is a postcard from the brave new world: Backed by sarcastically ecstatic horns, Tillman celebrates a “permanent party” where our appetite for distraction has eroded the old-fashioned human soul. His characters finish the chores, slide on the Oculus Rift, and jump into bed with the pop star du jour. He heralds the “freedom to have what you want” in a tone that suggests freedom, whatever it may be, does not look like this.
After that opening suite—“Pure Comedy,” “Total Entertainment Forever,” and “Revolution”—the music settles into a tonal plateau. Even the most gripping songs unspool with acoustic leisure, and they can be long and lofty trips. The spiritual anchor is “Leaving LA,” in which fragments of orchestral splendour—all arranged by the brilliant Gavin Bryars—are buried beneath a 13-minute pilgrimage through Father John Misty’s psyche. An unappetizing prospect, perhaps, but he writes captivating scenes; one revisits a traumatic childhood saga soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies” in a JCPenney, another a New Year’s sunset that “reminds me, predictably, of the world’s end.”
Five verses into the song, Tillman inserts a mocking female character: He’s just “another white guy in 2017,” she groans, “who takes himself so goddamn seriously.” “Leaving LA” reaches for transcendent honesty, but this lyric feels misjudged. Is this a sincere concern or an attempt to shoot down nonexistent thinkpieces? Father John Misty’s music is certainly exasperating, but it’s not due to his entitlement so much as that irrepressible impulse to outpace the listener’s criticism. The moment somebody says, “I know I’m being annoying” is often when you realize it’s true.
Tillman has, of course, anticipated this critique. His childish desire to be loved or hated on his own terms is dredged up on “A Bigger Paper Bag,” but there’s an added, delicate touch that’s endearing. “It’s easy to assume that you’ve built some rapport/With someone who only likes you for what you like yourself for,” he sings, over a woozy arrangement evoking peak Elliott Smith. “You be my mirror/But always remember/There are only a few angles I tend to prefer.” It’s a rare callback to Honeybear’s psychological burrowing, and I find myself returning to it. His sociological bombast is dwarfed by these quiet revelations."