Since his gut-wrenching performance on Saturday Night Live of “Pure Comedy,” Father John Misty’s new album has been anticipated more than originally expected, even by the big-music-hating big musician himself. Now that Pure Comedy is available to the public to observe, one has to wonder if he’s happy people are listening.
Similar to Keaton Henson’s new music, there are times when enjoying the album can make its listeners feel almost guilty to be buying into the money-fest that they so passionately slander. That being said, “True Entertainment Forever” makes confronting society a blast to sing along to. The same could go for “Ballad of a Dying Man” and “Pure Comedy” but they are met with a stronger sense of melancholy if you catch a particularly soul-crushing set of lyrics.
“Ballad of a Dying Man” runs along the same style as “True Affection” from his former album, I Love You, Honeybear. (Which now just seems like a less-sad version of Pure Comedy.) He’s lucky that his music is absolutely gorgeous, or I’d be a little more critical of the perpetual buzzkill this album gives me every time I listen.
“Birdie” and “When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay” are beautiful in the same way a girl who calls people by their astrological signs could be considered beautiful. (Reluctantly.) “Smoochie” has the same kind of sour lyrics as the former, but the vision of Josh Tilman being called “smoochie” is just too cute to resist. “Two Wildly Different Perspectives” reminds me of “The Art of Peer Pressure” by Kendrick Lamar, both being highly enjoyable songs that end with me crying for some unknown reason.
Father John Misty’s breakout album, Fear Fun, was a much more lighthearted, folk-heavy collection of songs, with this album being a lot more orchestral and intense, borderlining on country music-level aggression of ideas. The amount of times “Things it Would Have Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” uses the word “godless” could make an athiest feel uncomfortable. Despite all this, it’s a wonderful story that teeters on the line of two long, but doesn’t quite make it into “Leaving L.A.” and “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain” territory. (I’ve been listening to this album for about a week now and I still don’t remember a single lyric from the latter, and the same goes for “In Twenty Years or So.” Take that as you will.)
Something tells me a lot of professors would listen to this album and squint their eyes, calling it “profound” as they rub their elbow patches. “Leaving L.A.” tells me he knows exactly what he’s doing with this album. He describes the song, within its own lyrics, as a “10-verse chorus-less diatribe.” It’s a long song – 13 minutes long, actually – and while it’s hard to get through at times, the story is truly something to experience, preferably on a stormy day.
(It just makes sense that way.)
Now, let me take a moment to talk about “The Memo.” This is the prime example of a song that makes me feel bad for enjoying it. The lyrics are beautiful but not too sad, making them approachable enough to sing without hurdling over the edge of depression. It’s mocking automated voices predict my thoughts in real time: “This guy just gets me,” “music is my life” and “blo blo blo blo blo blo” to name a few.
People were already impressed with the use of a laugh track in “Bored in the U.S.A” from his former album, so one can only imagine the storm of enlightened hipsters rolling around in their own pretension and poems written on acid (used for inspiration only) after listening to this song. And the rest of the songs for that matter.
Album by album, Father John Misty gets a little more down in the dumps as our country falls apart, war breaks out and many lose hope. Sometimes I think he’s trying to get that hope back, but other songs just make me feel like he’s given up completely. He sings of religion, corruption, tragedy, loneliness, love and everything in between. (But mainly the first two.) Pure Comedy is one of those albums that makes you feel smarter, more aware, as if the songs are confronting you about what you know about yourself and the world around you. Even writing about the topic right now, I can feel the cynicism oozing out of my fingertips. So, maybe this album isn’t the ideal jam for your weekend pow-wows, but it’s great for some good old fashioned, self-loathing alone time.
3.5 out of 5 bongo-wielding beatniks