If you’ve been a bit concerned that Papa John Murphy has abandoned his sense of humor, this new video might cheer you up. It’s pretty funny.
Sure, the lyrics are still a little heavy handed. As Doreen St. Felix mentions in her spot-on review of Pure Comedy, Misty often comes across as a “precocious teenage misanthrope.” Indeed, someone’s been told too many times they’re beyond their years.
But he’s still funny. In a snide, prickish way. He’s an asshole, of course, but he’s funny. We’ve all known that guy. He impresses rubes and wannabes by talking about big concepts and scoffs at the trivialities of the less enlightened. 25 years ago he would’ve had a “kill your television” bumper sticker on his car. Today he’s all about unplugging the internet.
When the historians find us we’ll be in our homes
Plugged into our hubs
Skin and bones
A frozen smile on every face
As the stories replay
This must have been a wonderful place
Josh Tillman has admitted that he’s poorly educated. He’s insecure about his own intelligence so he condescends to others. This is standard douchebag 101. Again, we’ve all known that guy.
Nevertheless, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you. He’s not wrong about the ill effects of social media on our personal lives and on our society. Things are crazy. And the asbergery nerds who built today’s internet have created a world in their own image. People are becoming more awkward as we lose the ability to pick up on social cues. You can’t read body language or the expressions on people’s faces when your communication is restricted to typing and reading text.
So yeah, we’re doomed. But why do you have to be so boring about it? There was a sense of doom throughout Fear Fun, but that album was hilarious and awesome. Tillman recently told Jillian Mapes, “Like how Eskimos have 12 words for ‘snow,’ I feel like I have 12 words for ‘funny’ in my mind.” Personally, I prefer the Fear Fun kind of funny. Since then he’s been combatting “the demonic clown thing” he created, and the music has suffered for it.
Not that it’s affected his sales. Fear Fun‘s first week sales were 4,000; I Love You, Honeybear opened with 28,000; Pure Comedy achieved 33,000 pure album sales. So he’s obviously building his fan base. But I was starting to lose interest.
And then I listened to the new album on vinyl. Even though lyrically he might be sliding back into the humorlessness of the J. Tillman era, musically he’s getting more exciting. Sonically, the record just sounds good. I haven’t been very impressed with a lot of new vinyl; a lot of it sounds mediocre at best and worse than mp3s at times as overbooked manufacturers are cranking out product with no time for quality control. Here, the strings sound lush and evocative and Tillman’s vocals are impressive as ever.
Produced by Tillman and Jonathan Wilson, and recorded at United Recording Studios, Pure Comedy lives up to that facility’s legacy. It sounds so good with arrangements by Gavin Bryars, whose “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” (ft. Tom Waits) first caught my attention on a Spin Magazine sampler back in 1993. Notice how in interviews nobody ever asks Tillman about the music? It’s always about his lyrics and his overwrought philosophies of life. On this album, the music is far more interesting than the lyrics.
So even if I want to stop liking Father John Misty because he’s such a king douche, I just can’t stop listening.
But that math teacher mustache has got to go.