After several months of singles and film projects, Father John Misty released “Pure Comedy,” his latest full-length album, through Sub Pop Records on Friday, April 7. Its genius is not immediate, but once it grasps your conscience, the dark comedy becomes a ceaseless laugh-track to everyday interactions. It is no longer possible to make an innocuous decision.
At first listen,the temptation might be to reject the cluttered irony and ostensibly lazy indie notes about society forwarded in tracks like “Two Wildly Different Perspectives”—“One side says/‘Y’all go to hell.’/The other says/‘If I believed in God, I’d send you there.’” This is not exactly an eye-opening portrait of the contemporary moment.
The goal for this project, however, involved saying what everyone has been thinking, according to a comment Misty made in an interview with SiriusXMU. Understanding this, it is difficult to ignore the meticulously layered ironies, and it is nearly impossible to ignore the fundamental truths laid out in Misty’s achingly poetic lyrical articulations.
The album—a construct toying with the deconstruction of constructs—is immensely self-reflective and self-aware, but it is hard to say whether this leads to an irony-based transcendence or if the message is instead cheapened by a persona engaged in malignant posturing. “Leaving LA,” an ostensibly autobiographical, ten-versed track, characterizes the self as a professional novice—an oxymoron—and does not quite clear up the message. “It took me my whole life to learn to the play the G/But the role of Oedipus was a total breeze,” Misty sings in “Leaving LA.”
Fortunately, it becomes obvious that the role of the contradiction is enormous, both in “Pure Comedy” and in human life as Misty sees it. He concludes the album with track “In Twenty Years or So,” a piece which suggests the human is always doing things which don’t make sense, and the human remains convinced these actions are justified. Clearly, this cycle can be seen as laughable if confronted thoughtfully. “And what’s to regret/For a speck on a speck on a speck/Made more ridiculous the more serious he gets?” Misty asks, in his haunting, train-rolling-through-the-countryside composition.
Misty’s Twitter biography reads “Pure Comedy out now! it’s hilarious!” What exactly that means is still undetermined. I recommend finding a dark and isolated place in the foothills where you can listen to the album and realize you’ve been fundamentally mistaken about what it means to ‘mean’ in the first place.