Column: Is America ‘Pure Comedy’?

Cynicism or realism? That’s the question many will ask in the coming years — are people overreacting or being overly negative or is what some are saying about the future of America and, in a broader sense, the modern capitalist society, true?

“Pure Comedy” is musician Josh Tillman’s, a.k.a Father John Misty’s, newest “apocalyptic” album that questions many hot topics such as the future of government, media and religion.

With song titles such as “Things That Would’ve Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” and “In Twenty Years or So,” he tackles issues many Americans often wonder about but haven’t had served to them in a form such as this.

Music has been a commentary for culture and politics for years, but in “Pure Comedy” it seems more like it’s thrown right in your face and not subliminally put like “Just another brick in the wall.”

It seems as though Misty didn’t spare one verse in his 13-track album; the singer/songwriter immediately goes after hot topics like religion in the title track “Pure Comedy.”

“Oh, their religions are the best,” sings Misty. “They worship themselves yet they’re totally obsessed, with risen zombies, celestial virgins, magic tricks, these unbelievable outfits, and they get terribly upset, when you question their sacred texts, written by woman-hating epileptics.”

In this verse, Misty doesn’t specify which particular religion he is calling out, but it can really resonate in times like these, whether its Christianity, Islam or Judaism that is being attacked. He brings in a sense of realism and understanding that you can sort of generalize religion, and they all share similar qualities.

“No, can you believe how far we’ve come, in the New Age? Freedom to have what you want, in the New Age we’ll all be entertained, rich or poor, the channels are all the same.”

In his second track, “Total Entertainment Forever,” he questions technology within virtual reality and how far we will we take it. Does having everything we want at the palm of our hands enable us, or make us ignorant to the surrounding world?

But the most powerful song on the album has to be the tenth track, “Two Wildly Different Perspectives.” You can tell by the title who he is aiming at, and that is the liberal and conservative ideologies; the topic that has maybe polarized the world the most in recent years: which side is right?

“One side says, ‘Kill ‘em all.’ The other says, ‘Line those killers up against the wall.’ But either way some blood is shed, thanks to our cooperation, on both sides.”

At the end of each verse, Misty throws in his classic sarcasm that you’ll get with any of his three albums, by saying “thanks to our cooperation, on both sides.” Once again giving an understanding that neither side is right.

Now, maybe Father John Misty is just a nihilist with no agenda and is just sick of hearing each side of the political spectrum bark at one another. But I doubt he doesn’t care, otherwise what’s the point of writing these songs, where some go for seven or nine minutes.

I think “Pure Comedy” is something that, if not understood now, will be 20 years down the road. Of course, it has its current influences, but when looking at literature like George Orwell’s “1984,” we still find relevance in that today, and maybe even more than when Orwell himself wrote it. Even Rod Sterling picked up on issues that would come in the future with the “Twilight Zone.”

So when listening to “Pure Comedy” think about the future, and ask yourself: Are we that far off from what Father John Misty is telling us?

Tom Jenkins can be contacted at [email protected].