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Album Review
Pure Comedy

Pure Comedy
by Father John Misty

Sub Pop

Review Date
7th April 2017
Reviewed by
Stefanie Keyworth

Those following Josh Tillman's output as Father John Misty will not be surprised by the ever-extending scope of his albums. With his debut being an exercise of self-discovery, and follow-up being an examination of his new marriage, I was well prepared for his third album to be a hilariously overwrought dissection of all the world’s problems. I mean, it is, but it’s also a thoroughly introspective affair as Tillman is a part of the world and has a lot of problems to dissect too.

Though he comments on the conflicts and contradictions facing humanity, he does so as an accomplice and not a distant observer. Tillman is not exempt from criticism, least of all his own. He mocks the pointlessness of clever commentary in 'Ballad of the Dying Man', while enjoying the irony in contributing to the pissing contest. He knows that entertainment holds as much value as unsolicited opinions, but he can’t contain his talent at presenting both. After all, as he concludes in 'Total Entertainment Forever', the opposite could lead to a society literally malnourished by vapid distractions.

Album centrepiece 'Leaving LA' serves as both recognition and remedy to the public perception of his so-called persona. Understandably frustrated at being considered a character simply because he has character, he dismantles those misconceptions in the self-described “ten verse chorus-less diatribe”. If you’ve struggled with Tillman’s balance of satire and sincerity before, you may find his earnestness more apparent this time around. While his wit certainly remains, he’s not often aiming for humour anymore.

Musically, Pure Comedy continues in the classic and cinematic vein of its predecessor, allowing a timeless backdrop for the firmly present lyrics. He’s proven that he can be authentic without forcing sentimentality in his lyrics, so he saves it for the music. The contrast pulls focus to the words, but the depth of each is revealed with each listen. At 74 minutes it’s a lot to take in, but if you hang in there you will find that despite the absurdity, it’s worth it.


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