Since his last album’s examination of idealistic love, Father John Misty has upped his musical principle to picking apart the human experience with his new album, “Pure Comedy.” The album was released on April 7 after months of anticipation during which he debuted four singles.
“Pure Comedy” is Misty’s third album, yet he isn’t a novice to the music industry. Misty, whose real name is Josh Tillman, makes music under a number of various pseudonyms. He has previously produced music under the name Josh Tillman, J. Tillman and as a part of several indie rock and folk bands including Fleet Foxes, Saxon Shore and Pearly Gate Music.
“Pure Comedy” generally stays true to the sound of Misty’s previous album “I Love You, Honeybear,” with acoustic and relaxed instrumentals complementing Misty’s smooth voice. What stands out is how these elements highlight Misty’s bizarre lyrics about his worldview and attitude toward anything from entertainment to “the homophobes, hipsters and 1 percent.”
“Pure Comedy” doesn’t explore new sounds. Although there are stand-out tracks on this album, much of his sound remains untouched. Despite this, the lyrics on “Pure Comedy” are cynical and dark, which provides for a side of Misty that his listeners don’t typically hear.
The title track, “Pure Comedy,” is the first song on the album and begins with a montage of soundbites from old television and radio programs. These set the tone for Misty’s utter distaste for humanity’s modern values of consumerism. This dark humor labels these societal shortcomings as “pure comedy.”
In the same song, he relates human self-importance to the institution of religion, particularly Christianity. “They worship themselves and they get terribly upset / When you question their sacred texts,” is Misty criticizing his perceived hypocrisy of religion that stands for goodness, but at the same time, Misty remains exceedingly self-involved. The title track sets the tone for the rest of the album, which continues to raise questions about values. It also indulges in poignant commentary about what human kind has become.
The third and fifth tracks on the album, “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” and “Birdie,” consist of louder and more obscure sounds. In “Birdie,” there is a sci-fi nature to the music. While there’s a piano playing many of the harmonies in “Birdie,” it’s accompanied by faraway sounds reverberations and some electronic musical elements.
The rest of “Pure Comedy” sounds like one long song. The acoustics and melodies of the songs blur together, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. By making the second half of “Pure Comedy” seamless, Misty made the focus of the latter half his lyrics, which ring with bitter observations of the world he lives in.
His longest song, “Leaving LA,” runs 13 minutes long and epitomizes his critiques on modern entertainment and capitalism, while explicitly telling his own story about finding his place in music. In an interview, Misty said he worked on the song for three years, making the song timeless.
Misty has proven his incredible thoughtfulness with “Pure Comedy.” More than the music itself, the messages stand out. The ideas often linger even after the songs are over and urge listeners to think about the issues of our time. “Pure Comedy” is thought-provoking and cynical. It’s a closer examination and call to question of the social issues that the world faces. Although not experimental and new, Misty shared his innermost, uncensored beliefs through music proving his head is in the right place.