Since releasing 2012’s Fear Fun, his debut album under the Father John Misty moniker, Josh Tillman has emerged as one of pop music’s most profound provocateurs, waxing philosophic about the shallowness of Top 40 pop in interviews and offering up lyrics about death and sex with a daring frankness.
Just two years after his breakthrough I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman is back with his third album, Pure Comedy. The 75-minute opus is his most boldly experimental and richly produced album to date, with 13 songs that touch on baroque pop, orchestral folk, stark piano balladry, and even gospel.
So far, Father John Misty has managed to balance his socio-philosophical musings with a deep, sarcastic intimacy. On his third album, Tillman relies heavily on the former, abandoning his commitment to self-scrutiny as he expounds on a dystopian vision of a society endlessly addicted to entertainment and navigates a dark landscape of climate change-induced apocalypse.
“It’s not self-love that kills you,” he sings in his mournful tenor on “The Memo,” a lilting country-folk number that crystallizes Tillman’s late-capitalist nightmare. “It’s when those who hate you are allowed to sell you that you’re a glorious s— the entire world revolves around.” On Pure Comedy, Father John Misty is just about clever enough to glide entirely on his intellectualism, but by emotionally removing himself from his own narratives, he’s ended up making a record that’s smarter than it is affecting.
This 13-minute epic is a twisted autobiography that deconstructs Father John Misty’s public image while referencing Fleetwood Mac and Oedipus along the way.
“Total Entertainment Forever”
“Bedding Taylor Swift / Every night inside the Oculus Rift” begins this commentary on mindless pleasure that serves as the album’s moral centerpiece.