A Sobering Sermon From The Father
'Pure Comedy' is the latest album from singer-songwriter Father John Misty. Misty is someone that can be described as somewhat of a ‘born-again’ musician, having been a member of several bands including Har Mar Superstar and Fleet Foxes as well as several solo releases under the name J. Tillman before his rebirth as the charismatic showman, now known as Father John Misty. Those who have seen Father John Misty live will know that Father is more than a name. It is an entire persona and when he steps onto that stage he emits the presence and performance of an Evangelical preacher with his incensed prowess and preacher-like monologues that complement his performance.
This showman nature extends to Father John Misty’s pre-recorded offerings with the album opening with its title track, "Pure Comedy". This track listens somewhat like a ballad straight from a Broadway show, alerting you that there is much more behind the music than mere sound. The track helps to highlight the irony and fallacy of Earth and beliefs and some particularly thought-provoking lines including: “And how's this for irony, their idea of being free, is a prison of beliefs that they never ever have to leave.” "Pure Comedy" takes aim at the political and religious world especially and this is illustrated in the montage-esque music video consisting of macabre animated drawings, swimming sperm and stock footage of various pop-culture and world events from awards show moments to natural disasters. There is a sprinkling of fluffy animals too to help distract you from the depressing world reality you are being introduced to, although there is no respite when just listening.
"Total Entertainment Forever" caused some controversy when performed on Saturday Night Live due to the lyric: “bedding Taylor Swift every night in the Oculus Rift after mister and missus finish the dishes,” drawing some links with Kanye’s controversial lyric about Swift in his song "Famous". There is much more to this saxophone laced song however, with the song exploring a frightening vision of the future where we are plugged into our homes, a cold smile on our faces, with our every fantasy available at the touch of a button. A vision that, whilst it might seem bliss to some, is painted in the vision of a cold dull hell.
Links with Kanye do not end with lyrical references. Misty has also been known for a rant or two on stage during his shows and even his own ‘Life of Padre’ merchandise to mimic Kanye’s Life of Pablo line. Even his hardcore following, albeit smaller reaching than the controversial rapper, draws similarities and it would not be a far stretch to label Father John Misty as Kanye West’s satirical hipster incarnation.
"Leaving LA" is a mammoth of a track as just over 13 minutes long which explores the formulated visage of Los Angelos. Father John Misty explores how his dreams of becoming a star and gathering rave reviews for his music have transformed into a discovery of the soulless and flaccid world of LA. A city of anagrams and start up bands and plastic looking humans, basing themselves on visions of idylls. Misty also satirises modern issues from drug-tainted tap water to anything you can dream of at the touch of a button on the net. Father John Misty also seems to look over these LA creatures in almost a god-like fashion, as he tried to come and live among them but soon realised the futility of their capitalist existence, but instead decided to sit and examine their self-destruction from afar instead.
The post-apocalyptic nature of Misty’s album continues here too as he ends this extensive track with the thought: “So we leave time in total silence. New Years Day at six o clock a.m. I’ve never seen sunset this abandoned. Reminds me predictably of the worlds end. It’ll be good to get more space. God knows what all these suckers pay. I can stop drinking and you can write your script. What we both think now is…..” He leaves the final word out, in a sort of ‘if you do not get it by now you never will and you are as bad as them’ kind of way. It is difficult not to speculate the final word, with pointless seeming the obvious choice, since the term sums up what the visions outlined in the last 13 minutes have described to listeners.
When the "God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay" is a piano driven ballad hypothesising the reaction of Jesus and God’s return to Earth, with their first impressions being that it has been turned to hell. The song explores humanities insatiable appetite to conquer the earth and their greedy nature, with lyrics that touch on war and wealth as well as comparisons with the animal kingdom and their faithfulness to their own nature “the spider spins its web, the tiger stalks its prey.”
"Two Wildly Different Perspectives" explores, if not evident from the title, two opposing views of life. That of atheism and the other a religious view. Misty opens with the rather humorous retort: “one side says you’ll go to hell. The other said if I believed in God I’d send you there.” The theme is in the same vein as "When the God of Love Returns" and features some rather humorous and sardonic observations of the world and its inhabitants.
"A Bigger Paper Bag" swings to the absurd nature that often comes along with Father John Misty’s music opening with comment on fist-fighting demons. Its hazy and dreamlike sound almost mask its lyricism and its seemingly watch, and encourage, as the fires rage mantra.
There is something to laugh, fear and enjoy on every track of 'Pure Comedy' whether that is picking up a new apocalyptic reference or laughing at every absurd yet frightfully close to reality lyric. Whilst the topics may run slightly stale throughout the album, the multitude of deliveries and sounds help keep it fresh. Whether it is the Broadway ballad sound of the "Pure Comedy" to the dreamy sounds in others and the familiar singer-songwriter style in others.
'Pure Comedy' is an album that satirically looks at the hopelessness of humanity and is quite post-apocalyptic in parts. The hi-tech future that is ever-becoming the present seems rather grey and bland through Father John Misty’s eyes with the simplicity of a natural existence seeming all the more appealing in comparison to the war-ridden, constantly watched, loveless technology laden future. 'Pure Comedy' is the song version of George Orwell’s 1984 with its dull vision of the future. 'Pure Comedy' is not a literal title at first listen, and acts rather as an expression to describe the helpless world of man portrayed within. However, this sardonic world view makes it all the more comical. In the same way that a disastrous day where all goes wrong becomes laughable because it is verges on the unbelievable, as does the world laid out in 'Pure Comedy'. After all, an existence of selfish and vacuous humanity, drug-laced tap water, religious conflict and soulless hi-tech social lives are so out there, they could never infect this godless rock that refuses to die, right? 'Pure Comedy' is out now.