Father John Misty – Pure Comedy – Bella Union
As close to a warrior poet as the 21st century is likely to spew out comes Josh Tillman aka FJM, a musician who packs melancholic storytelling, modern day scepticism and a Sinatra esque ability to find a romping and theatrical chorus line into his alt folk ballads. After the unanimous brilliance of I Love You Honeybear, his 2015 masterpiece, Tillman set his own bar so high, you felt it would take a gargantuan leap to produce anything quite so satirically insightful, delightfully scathing and beautifully sentimental.
Although Pure Comedy is a brave and perceptive record, his audacious subject matter being humanity, the universe, God and well… everything else, it fails to quite strum the heartfelt chord we know FJM is so capable of. In his previous work Tillman’s confusion and disorientation with his surroundings is what is truly compelling and we are often left with more questions than answers from our bedraggled narrator. Pure Comedy shows a different Tillman altogether, a preaching Father who, at times pompously, puts the world to rights, singling out individuals and societal groups in his fire and brimstone sermons. Opinionated and hostile tirades suffocate the record and make it actually surprisingly unpalatable given the accessibility of his previous work. The feel of the songs don’t quite have any true diversity and as a result, bleed into one another somewhat, becoming indistinguishable and homogenised.
There is still a great deal to enjoy, Tillman’s wit and articulation is something that few possess, and his ability to act as a protest singer to his own misery is captivating enough to be at times laugh out loud funny. However the soul of the record, that warm fuzzy epicentre that allowed us to fall in love with Tillman in Honeybear just isn’t present and we are left with an embittered and frustrated orator who is miles ahead of the class and arrogantly irritated that no one is keeping up.