On Pure Comedy

  Pure Comedy's album cover . Courtesy of Sub Pop.

Pure Comedy's album cover. Courtesy of Sub Pop.

Pure Comedy by Father John Misty (Real name: Josh Tillman) encapsulates the world today, as Misty sees it. Tillman manages to harness the talents of composer Gavin Bryars, alongside Nico Muhly for choral arrangements, to create a colourful sound. Each new track is an instrumental delight. Some tracks sound huge, exquisitely orchestrated, while other tracks are simpler, yet still sound dynamic. Meanwhile, Tillman’s lyrics are thoughtful, funny and self-aware. Lines such as: “Bedding Taylor Swift, Inside the Oculus Rift,” are not only funny, but insightful references to contemporary culture. Throughout the album, Misty demonstrates a healthy degree self-awareness, I found that rather refreshing. By fusing both commentary, personal anecdotes, and lush instrumentation, Tillman has crafted an inspired album.

Politics, algorithmes, virtual reality and obsession with social media are the various topics covered in the clever lyrics. However, to the benefit of the album, specific people and events are not mentioned, leaving the lyrics mostly up for interpretation. As in the titular song, Misty alludes to certain politicians, but never by name, he sings: “Where did they find these goons they elected to rule them?” The album was written in 2015 and mastered in October 2016, before the results of the American election, according to Tillman’s Pitchfork interview. Condemning specific people would have came across as lazy and uncreative. Instead, Misty uses clever word-play to describe his frustrations.  

Never does the album come off across as too self-serious. When that does happen, as in the "Leaving LA"a 13 minute song comprised only of verses (The length is laughably self-serious)—Misty acknowledges this:

Mara taunts me ‘neath the tree
She’s like, ‘Oh great, that’s just what we all need
Another white guy in 2017
Who takes himself so goddamn seriously.’
She’s not far off, the strange thing is
That’s pretty much what I thought when I started this
— Leaving LA

Misty gets personal on this track, acknowledge his experiences and artistry. He sings about his first experience with music: Choking on a candy while shopping at the JC Penny with his mom. The personal moments recontextualize the tone of the whole album. Misty does not take himself too serious, neither is he condemning people, this is just his perspective. More importantly, he comes across as a regular person, who doubts themselves and faces problem; for example: Almost dying in a department store while "Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac plays in the background.

Pure Comedy utilizes and acknowledges it’s medium—the album—in clever ways. Misty understands the powerful position of an artist, he undermines the position with humour and self-awareness, while still crafting a cohesive album. Tillman's unique sense of humour works well alongside the more serious lyrical moments. The album neither preaches to the audience, nor is it a memoir. Tillman balances music and lyrics, creating an album that I keeping going back too. Pure Comedy does not answer any questions or provide any solutions, nor should it. The album is just an enjoyable, thought provoking and humorous 74 minutes of experiential music. For weeks I could not stop thinking about the album.

During the process of re-listening to the album for the fifth time, I questioned my efforts in writing and why I even enjoyed it. Misty commentary on think-peices, though funny, forced me to reflect about my trajectory as a writer. There are countless think-pieces, essays, opinions, reviews and analysis on the internet. Good writers are hard to find—of course there are many writers whose work, opinions and style I admire—a lot of writers are either chasing a self-affirmation loop or engineering their work to generate clicks. Where do I fit within the mess of writing? Can I consider myself as a good writer? I am sending my writing out like wet farts in a grassy field, dissipating amongst the innumerable work of other writers.

As I launch this small website, I hope to find a place on the feral internet. Being aware of the scale and reach my writing is important what this website is about. I’m writing to develop my skills, be more comfortable, learn and try to enjoy the process. If my perspective and experiences help create something cool, something that affects a few people in some way, I would be happy. I look forward to doing more freelance work and experimenting in this speck of a website with a silly name.