Pure Comedy continues Father John Misty’s run of super-chic, highly sarcastic albums based in the 1970’s singer-songwriter mould. While 2012’s Fear Fun was cloaked in self-deprecating LA cool and populated by an array of characters – i.e. Sally Hatchet, the Ladiesman, John the Baptist – 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear saw Josh Tillman step a little closer and sing about his own life. The result was a much less self-conscious and more heartfelt collection of songs, and now with Pure Comedy, it seems the difference between Tillman and the FJM moniker are fairly arbitrary. Although, when compared to the fairly somber folk music he released before striking upon the character, the idea was obviously a brilliantly freeing motivational device for him as a writer, it is a great relief to find that he, mostly, is now ‘closing the gap between the mask and me’, as he sings on Leaving L.A.
The difference is that this time around instead of focusing on fictional tales or his own love life, he is reflecting on the world outside, in particular the political world, and while there are some particularly scathing lyrics, such as on the title track, in general Tillman’s plea here is for humanity. On the standout track Two Wildly Different Perspectives he adopts a plaintive tone, reflecting that no one is innocent on either side of an ideological conflict, that if blood is shed it is on all of our hands.
There are moments when Tillman is a little heavy handed with his approach, such as on The Memo or the 13-minute vision of the apocalypse, Leaving LA, but for the most part this is a very strong work and an important snapshot of our times.
Originally published in Beat Magazine.