Highlights: Father John Misty, ‘Pure Comedy’


Father John Misty, Pure Comedy © Sub PopFather John Misty (Josh Tillman) delivers one of the year’s most demanding, yet well-rounded albums with ‘Pure Comedy.’

The return of Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) is BIG deal. Tillman is one of the most gifted songwriters in modern times.  While he has more of a cult following as opposed to mainstream, his gifts are indisputable.  Two years after releasing the painfully underrated I Love You, Honeybear (2015), he returns with his third studio album, Pure Comedy.

“Pure Comedy”

Pure Comedy” is the centerpiece – it sets the tone of the album, both lyrically and musically. The lyrics are ambitious and pure genius, finding Father John Misty referencing societal issues including women’s rights, religion, and politics. Musically, following a mysterious opening two-minutes filled with various sound effects, a relatively deliberate pace, and an ear-catching harmonic progression, a groove asserts itself. Additionally, a full palette of sounds unveils its sheer excellence. 

“Total Entertainment Forever” 

On “Total Entertainment Forever,” flexes his creative, wildly imaginative side.  Here, he paints a picture of the new reality, which is as absurd as the lyrics he pens.

“No gods to rule us / No drugs to soothe us / No myths to prove stuff / No love to confess us / Not bad for a race of demented monkeys / From a cave to a city to a permanent party.”

Tillman takes shots at where the human race stands, ultimately foretelling how much worse it’ll progress with time.  His sarcasm is both out of control yet alarmingly on point.  At the end, it is clear that the future looks bleak in his eyes, a recurring theme throughout Pure Comedy.

“Ballad of the Dying Man”

“Ballad of the Dying Man” is as morbid as it sounds.  Essentially, Father John Misty reflects on the temporariness of life. The dying man seems concerned about the mark he’s left.  Ultimately, Tillman states it best:

“We leave as clueless as we came / From rented heavens to shadows in the cave / We’ll all be wrong someday.” 

“When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay”

“When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay” ranks among the elite moments from Pure Comedy.  Father John Misty criticizes God on numerous occasions, hence, feeding into agnosticism and atheism. How does he criticize God? Through criticizing his creation – humans.

Literally, “Two Wildly Different Perspectives” covers just that – two wildly different perspectives. It is open to multiple interpretations. That said, it seems he’s referencing the dangers of politics.  The polarization caused by both sides is at an all-time high, with the back-n-forth between both creating hell.

Captivating closer In Twenty Years or So” questions the importance of the human race, earth, the universe – the whole shebang.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Father John Misty delivers an exceptional album with Pure ComedyPure Comedy is a more demanding listen compared to I Love You, Honeybear. Even so, it’s also more ambitious than Honeybear.  Tillman is among the most gifted songwriters in modern times, able to blend the serious, the humorous, and the satirical seamlessly.  Once more, he works his magic on Pure Comedy, even if it requires more processing.

Gems: “Pure Comedy,” “Total Entertainment Forever,” “Ballad of the Dying Man,” “When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay” & “Two Wildly Different Perspectives”

Father John Misty • Pure Comedy • Sub Pop • Release: 4.7.17
Photo Credit: Sub Pop

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