Music Review: Pure Comedy

by Father John MistySub Pop Records
reviewed by John Malkin
Pure Comedy - cover

Pure Comedy by Father John Misty is a striking blues album that’s funny and sad, insightful and philosophical. One of the wonderfully crafted tunes is titled “When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay.” There’s another one called “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution.” The album kicks off with a paragraph that can’t be beat in terms of expressing the often-mentioned, yet rarely grasped, human condition: “The comedy of man starts like this / Our brains are way too big for our mother’s hips / And so nature / She devised this alternative / We emerge half formed / And hope whoever greets us on the other end / Is kind enough to fill us in / And babies that’s pretty much how it’s been ever since…”

Years before he reinvented himself as a solo artist, Father John Misty was Josh Tillman, who played drums in the Seattle band Fleet Foxes. This third album under the newish moniker is a contemporary tragicomedy that could be viewed as a collection of 21st-century sardonic poetry.

“They build fortunes poisoning their offspring /And hand out prizes when someone patents the cure / Where did they find these goons they elected to rule them?” asks Misty in the song “Total Entertainment Forever.” Another doozy from the same song: “And how’s this for irony? / Their idea of being free is a prison of beliefs / That they never have to leave.”

“Leaving LA” is an epic 13-minute ballad that is a sad reflection of the current times, with a compelling orchestral arrangement by Gavin Bryars. Misty reports, “Anything else you can get online / A creation myth or a .45 / You’re going to need one or the other to survive / Where only the armed or the funny / Make it out alive…”

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