These strange, curious times are made for an artist like Father John Misty aka Josh Tillman, life as we know it is a strange circus with all manner of freaks and sideshows taking centre stage. To look at it there is a sense of bewilderment that this is being passed off as normal transmission, folks don’t adjust your sets. Pure Comedy the third instalment from Father John eviscerates modern society taking aim at everything from political power to our pre-occupation with the latest mind distracting gadget. Father John has this incisive knack of tearing the modus operandi to shreds, ripping open the curtain and exposing it to his special brand of ridicule and condemnation. Pure Comedy is grandiose and bombastic in equal measure, Father John treads a highwire carefully avoiding the pitfall of self indulgence. Articulate and forthright in dissecting the current state of the human landscape Tillman is brutal in his assessment of modern society, set against a dramatic musical backdrop where the sombre tones of a piano dominate.
The title track portrays life as some sort of sadistic tragi-comedy, with humans at the centre of this dystopian nightmare from the moment we exit the womb. Tillman lights the blowtorch on the insidious nature of ideology the concept of religion being a type of moral subjugation where it’s not permissible to question the content or context. The song has a claustrophobic feel to it, heightening the sense of fear at its core, producer Jonathan Wilson has stripped it all back so that Tillman and his piano are centre stage.
“Oh comedy, their illusions that they have no choice but to believe,
Their horizons that just forever recede,
And how’s this for irony, their idea of being free is a prison of beliefs,
That they never have to leave.”
Total Entertainment has an Orwellian fear to it, the concept that we are becoming trapped in an alternative state of constant gratification through technology. Our reality is becoming more distorted, more controlled by the technology that we embrace there is a growing desire to be constantly distracted and entertained.
“Can you believe how far we’ve come
In the New Age
Freedom to have what you want,
In the New Age we’ll all be entertained,
Rich or poor the channels are all the same,
You’re a star now, baby, so dry your tears
You’re just like them
Wake on up from the nightmare.”
The sombre Ballad of The Dying Man features stripped back surroundings with the focus on a haunting piano melody, it’s a stinging riposte on all those that commentate and judge in our society, those that falsely predict and analyse.
The highlight of the album is the 13 minute epic Leaving LA, a brilliant vast landscape with an eerie cinematic tone, it’s like Father John is standing under a spotlight in a suit with the orchestra in the pit below. It begins as a scathing critique of the shallowness of L.A, “leave under the gaze of the billboard queen’s. Five foot chicks with parted lips selling sweatshop jeans.” He then turns inward with a self deprecating examination of his own career and the way in which he is portrayed in the mainstream musical press.
When the God of Love Return There’ll Be Hell To Pay finds Father John once again at the precipice, the looming dawn of judgement day is here and it’s time to ask the question of what has mankind achieved. Within the setting of solitary piano and a ghostly choir the answer is not much, and we say it’s just human, human nature. This place is savage and unjust, we crawled out of the darkness and endured your impatience. We’re more than willing to adjust, and now you’ve got the gall to judge us”.
Two Wildly Different Perspectives is the most overt in terms of it’s analysis of our current political climate, there is a certain sense of despair in the reality that we are caught in the mire of an ideological divide. A divide that is more like a chasm that no longer allows for rational discourse, Misty draws a line where the only common thread is the polarisation of both sides. “One side says, “Man take what’s yours”, the other says “live on no more than you can afford”. But either way we just possess and everyone ends up with less, on both sides.”
For some it feels like Father John is pushing the listener to the edge, Pure Comedy is a lot to consume, the beauty of this record is it’s reach is cerebral. Delving so deeply into it you start to ask questions and peak behind the curtain of this charade, what you are confronted with is unappetizing but at least you now know.