Father John Misty’s third album is a beautiful, illuminating masterpiece ... Musically, we’re on pretty familiar territory; a little soulful Jackson Browne, a smidge of acoustic Neil Young and even a touch of piano-tinkling Elton John, as well as a gospel choir thrown into the mix, but this is a record that sets itself apart by virtue of its lyrics.
A handful of superb records have already been released in 2017. Pure Comedy’s scope, ambition, and beauty herald something bigger: the year’s first great album.
Pure Comedy is the perfect name for an album like this; one that trades in seemingly serious evocations, but ultimately reveals itself to be a farce. After 74 minutes of self-congratulatory back-slapping, proselytising, hand-wringing and relativising, Tillman reinforces his belief in man's ineffectuality and weakness amid cosmic indifference.
A great deal of the album’s power comes from the way the bleakness of the lyrics is offset by the lusciousness of the melodies and the comforting familiarity of the sound, with its acoustic guitars and beautifully subtle orchestrations.
Pure Comedy is quite a leap, both lyrically, in being an extended treatise on what it means to be human in 2017 and musically
Pure Comedy lives up to its title. It’s a comedy in every sense of the word. Absurdity is the order of the day. There are jokes around every turn. The central joke being the perfectly dissonant balance of sincerity and sarcasm conveyed by music and lyrics alike.
Joshua Tillman has crafted one of the year’s most undoubtedly ambitious albums, melding of-the-moment musings with classicist songwriting. It’s his best work yet.
Pure Comedy raises the stakes, moving from an already ambitious personal concept album to a wider exploration of what it means to be human. His trademark lyrics remain; full of intimate observation and wry humor, but the scope has blown out of all proportion. In lesser hands it could have become unwieldy and pretentious. Tillman is simply too good for that.
Pure Comedy is packed with so much meaning and complexity, it feels as overwhelmingly absurd, joyous, curious, tragic, extraordinary and contradictory as life itself.
Eschewing I Love You, Honeybear's genre-hopping eclecticism, Pure Comedy's understated arrangements of barebones piano and acoustic guitar ensure the focus remains squarely on Tillman's lyrics and captivating voice.
It’s a record that is by turns wonderful and frustrating – but for all its ups and downs, one thing remains clear: Josh Tillman has ascended to a new level of songcraft with ‘Pure Comedy’.
The attention-grabbing flamboyance of the Father John Misty mystique is lately proving to be inversely proportional to the actual execution of Tillman’s music. Pure Comedy is a placid, undulating folk record with orchestral flourishes—more precisely, a modern update of mellow AM Gold.
Misty’s new album, Pure Comedy, meditates on, and makes the case for, life not being some whimsical comedy of errors, but a tragedy so unbelievable you can’t help but laugh.
The 75-minute opus is his most boldly experimental and richly produced album to date, with 13 songs that touch on baroque pop, orchestral folk, stark piano balladry, and even gospel.
Despite its multitude of sideways glances, Pure Comedy isn’t a contemptuous sneer, rather an attempt to dust oneself off and seek control of a ship that’s destined to sink no matter what.
From a certain angle, all this can play like an elaborate stunt ... but there's a strong melancholy undercurrent to Pure Comedy that suggests Father John Misty is something more than a jester. All of this can be felt through the music itself ... and that, more than the verbal gymnastics, is why Pure Comedy delivers upon much of Father John Misty's outlandish promises.
‘Pure Comedy’ needs investment. It’s verbose and it aims high and it’s not a record you can stick on in the background while you play Candy Crush. But unplug from this modern game of life just for a little while and it’s a very, very special reward indeed.
In this era of easily digested ideas made for short attention spans, Father John Misty challenges his audience to stick with him on a rewarding hour and a quarter slo-mo journey to a sphere that may share a few too many comparisons to ours for comfort.
What makes this more than glib is a golden-era songwriting craft evidently shaped by Tillman's tenure with Fleet Foxes, and his unsparing self-examination.
If ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ was a sarcastic title for a record of hard truths, it’s got nothing on the name ‘Pure Comedy’ – Tillman’s 75-minute slow avalanche of ballads that relentlessly nags at the absurdity of mankind.
Misty keeps this album pretty genuine. There are jaunts and horns and dancing mixed with sorrow and piano and heartache; his lyrics cutting through any joy with wicked humour and his comic persona still second place to his incredible songwriting.
The Tillman of Pure Comedy ... is in full cultural-criticism mode, analyzing politics, celebrity obsession, social media, the environment and the impending doom of humankind. Yes, when stacked next to each other, those themes have a whiff of pretension that will likely rile his detractors. But, after 75 sprawling minutes, Tillman will have fans believing his gospel.
Beneath Pure Comedy’s synth-dappled country, blue-eyed soul, and pop fashioned after George Harrison is a battleground filled with religion, pop culture, technology, and neoliberalism.
He may only be another album (and/or a few tweets) away from becoming a parody of himself, but for now Pure Comedy is another elongated and extensive example of Misty’s intense outlook on cliché, contradictory and conceived contemporary life.
Pure Comedy shoots itself in the foot too many times to become the masterpiece it longs to be, but as a singular document of its creator’s remarkably incisive wit, deep well of pathos, and thorough eye for detail, it’s hard not to fall just a little bit in love with it. Even if you never listen to it again.
It’s just a shame that this only partly inspired slog isn’t a little more, well, entertaining.
Misty's seemingly constant performance art, the artist as satire, has always threatened to overshadow his actual music, but here it seems whatever humanity Honeybear reeked of has been cloaked in ten layers of defensive discomfort.