Dear Mr Tillman,
Thanks for coming back so quick, no we don’t think it is too soon, we’re all quite over the moon, because…..
….we’d all heard it sounded a bit, like a return to your debut, and some of it is similar too, however…
That’s enough of that.
The alter-ego of Josh Tillman, the indomitable Father John Misty is holed up in a New York hotel, losing his shit. Has he been a naughty boy? Has “Honeybear” strayed or booted him out? Is it all just a big joke? Part of Tillman’s pure comedy, tinged with tragedy; a twenty first century Shakespeare.
The fourth time around for FJM was a rapid affair. Conceived in a two week spree that could be likened but opposite to John Lennon’s “Lost Weekend”, an 18 month debauched and drunken break from his marriage, contrived by Ono to save their relationship and careers. Right down to the much compared similarities with Harry Nilsson, whom Lennon produced during his L.A. hiatus.
You could be forgiven for, upon first listen, wondering where this return to the Fear Fun style that had been lauded was. There is still the melancholy of Pure Comedy in the music, but replacing the social commentary and political slant is what on first glance could be an emotional breakdown but could equally be the opposite side to I Love You, Honeybear, the chandelier swinging of the misanthropes conceiving their Damien. A cynic may say that it’s convenient that there is such a flipside so easily produced, and is it just a conduit for his prolificacy?
Who cares? If the last LP at 75 minutes was sometimes a bit of a chore then the succinct 10 track follow up is easier to stomach and ultimately makes for a better record.
Pure Comedy was a prophetic document of America, as easily applied to the shit storm in our own broken country as to the Trump administration but God’s Favorite Customer is far more relatable on a universal scale.
This isn’t just a sad record. ‘Mr Tillman’ is a black comedy describing his drug and alcohol psychosis and hallucinations, ‘Date Night’ is him boasting of imaginary exploits and possibilities to, well, perhaps anyone that’ll listen at the bar.
‘Hangout at the Gallows‘ has echoes, of Elton John‘s ‘Funeral For A Friend’, and in fact peak 70’s Elton is peppered throughout. There’s the space laser gun sounds on ‘Just Dumb Enough to Try’ that could have been lifted straight from Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.
But ultimately, he’s one sad motherfucker, and whilst you wouldn’t wish misery upon Misty, he’s at his imperious zenith when madly in love. If he’s not bragging about having his new bride in the kitchen whilst in the wedding dress someone was probably murdered in, he’s referring to their dislocated love as being like disappointing diamonds and love that lasts forever can’t be that special, if they are all meant to.
However even when wallowing in the depths of despair, on ‘The Palace’, the wit hasn’t departed; “It’s only been three weeks/and a bag of speed from Jamie PHD” is the opener, and later “Last night I wrote a poem/man, I must have been in the poem zone”.
On ‘The Songwriter’ he lays his cards out, turning the tables, and basically is saying he’s been a bit of a dick and would Mrs Misty do the same in his shoes.
What made I Love You, Honeybear so adored by so many was the immediacy, the sucker punch of laugh out loud lyrics and the bombastic big band anthems they were attached to. Pure Comedy retained elements, it was after all still Josh Tillman being Father John Misty, but it was hard work that rewarded if you gave it your full attention. God’s Favorite Customer is everything you want from a Father John Misty record as it sinks into your psyche without you noticing and you’re singing every song to yourself against your will.
All this may just suggest he’s a horribly arrogant, self obsessed man that treats his wife like shit. Well possibly, so let’s hope they sort it out and his next LP is about the hell of parenthood. Screeching babies, angry sleep deprived Josh and Emma, shit and vomit everywhere.
God’s Favorite Customer is out now on Bella Union.