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Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, May 15th, 2017

Father John Misty: Pure Comedy

Father John Misty
Pure Comedy
(Sub Pop)

Buy it at Amazon!

It would be impossible for me to write about his new album Pure Comedy without first discussing Father John Misty himself. For those of you only roughly familiar with him, let me introduce you to this strange and mysterious character. Though his song lyrics can often be dark (“No one ever knows the real you, and life is brief/So I’ve heard, but what’s that gotta do with this black hole in me?”), it’s difficult to tell, in both interviews and his lyrics, when exactly he’s being dead-serious. There are so many fascinating layers to this individual that for one to attempt to differentiate between him being serious or coy or sarcastic or ironic is a nearly impossible task. I also feel it necessary to bring up his drug dependency (“self-medicating,” as he calls it); Misty openly talks about his near-daily relationship with LSD. (In a recent babbling and mostly incoherent interview with Rolling Stone, he says he uses it to cope with anxiety and depression.) Finally, there is Misty as a frontman – a suited, long-haired (though now beard-free), dancing, prancing, sexual dervish of a man. (At his show last week at the King’s Theater in Brooklyn, I definitely overheard the commentary of some straight men in the audience who seemed to be crushing on him just a little.) Put simply, it is impossible to put him into a box.

Moving on to the album itself, the opener (the album’s title track) sets a pretty solid tone for the whole LP, particularly in its ending lyrics: “But the only thing that they request is something to numb the pain with/Until there’s nothing human left/Just random matter suspended in the dark./I hate to say it, but each other’s all we got.”

I know, right? That’s some dark shit right there. It’s nothing we haven’t already heard from Misty though. It’s clear this is anything but a feel-good album. At it’s best, it makes you think deep, existential thoughts. At it’s worst, it’s monotonous and unending. The 13-minute track “Leaving LA,” though at times beautiful in its simplicity, which does help highlight Misty’s clear and strong pipes, is way too long. Always the self-aware one though, toward the end of the song, he sings, “I’m beginning to see the end/Of how it all goes down between me and them./Some 10-verse, chorus-less diatribe/Plays as they all jump ship./‘I used to like this guy.’/‘This new shit really kind of makes me want to die’.” (These lines literally made me laughed out loud, to be honest.)

The single, “Total Entertainment Forever,” which he performed on SNL and The Tonight Show recently, is probably the most pop-sounding, upbeat track. It even reminds me just a little of his hit song on his last record, “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” with it’s horn section and fairly fun, grooving beats.

By far the most interesting song on Pure Comedy (lyrically speaking, at least), is “Two Wildly Different Perspectives,” which really highlights the current political climate in this country. In the opening lines, Misty sings, “One side says ‘Y’all go to hell.’/The other says/‘If I believed in God, I’d send you there’.” Though this entire album was apparently mastered last October before the election was even held, it is clear from Misty’s lyrics in this song that he believes the rift created between the two sides (Republicans vs. Democrats, religious individuals vs. atheists, conservatives vs. liberals, etc.) will inevitably only have a negative impact on us all.

Though there are moments of lyrical and technical brilliance on Pure Comedy, for the most part the album strikes me as the kind of self-indulgent work that a man who enjoys hearing himself speak would create.

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Father John Misty: Pure Comedy