The caustically funny ‘Pure Comedy’ sees Josh Tillman take aim at society and politics in his third album as Father John Misty.
When Josh Tillman first wrote ‘Pure Comedy’, the title track of his third album as the notorious Father John Misty, it was way before we all became entangled in American politics. It’s not often that something resurrected identifies so intimately with ensuing events. Though its prophetic details are far from intended, it feels like his commentary on new, ugly social attitudes was destiny in the making.
Tillman’s affinity to satire has established his commanding position as a songwriter. His 2015 sophomore, I Love you, Honeybear, moulds one of the most sincere accounts of love and self-dissection ever contributed to 21st century pop culture. Like an insatiable quote machine, Tillman delivered each of his heart-wrench sentiments through deeply moving attitudes of parody. Though provisions for his next album were uncertain, hearing of Pure Comedy’s imminent arrival left little doubt in anyone’s minds.
For the first time, Tillman looks to paint his mockery onto a much larger canvas. Surpassing his muse of cherished love ones, he looks instead at the world though more all-encompassing vision. Timing in at no less than 80 minutes, it’s his grandest artistic statement yet. Pure Comedy is not just a collection of individual tracks; it’s entirely one entity. As he pokes fun at the enduring dissatisfactions of existence, Misty rarely differentiates the pace. It’s why the singles on this thing didn’t feel as initially potent, not much of it works without the rest. However, jigsaw puzzled together and you’re looking at an impressive contemporary commentary on life as we know it.
He teases the ill-fittings of politics and religion showing little regard for offence. His audacity exceeds him as he looks to the future on ‘Total Entertainment Forever’. Opening line, “bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift” tells the story of a species forever set on questionable ways to spend its time. His pessimism lies resolutely above emotive piano ballads, connecting deeply with each line of ridicule and invested remark. For much of Pure Comedy, his forlorn tone is inescapable – far more so than any previous Father John Misty inventions. However, there are undeniable glimmers of warmth. The cosmic thrill of ‘In 20 Years Or So’ is a sweeping depiction of hope in Tillman’s poetic nihilism.
As always, his lyrical prowess defines his delectability as an artist. How anyone can continue to ignore his relevance in such cultural vacuous times remains utterly bewildering. But Tillman’s alter ego in residence cares little for the approval of twinkling stardom. As he continues reap from his standalone qualities, Father John Misty’s purposeful critique of inept society and culture in Pure Comedy stands him in wide view of a cynical mindset. (8/10) (Ollie Rankine)
Listen to Pure Comedy here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Bella Union, Father John Misty, Josh Tillman, Ollie Rankine, Pure Comedy, review, Sub Pop
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