Father John Misty's latest single is an instrumental treat, but it's let down by the clashes between his real and stage personas.
Singer/Songwriter Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty, has seen a fair share of recent success with his trilogy of excellent albums – Fear Fun, I Love You Honeybear and Pure Comedy, but on his latest set of singles, that magic seems to be fading. Whilst the gorgeous arrangements and pristine production qualities are still very much present, the melodic bombast and intelligent lyrics are all but absent. It’s a change in tone for Tillman, but not one that merges well with his typically exaggerated, near memetic persona.
‘Just Dumb Enough to Try ‘opens with piano stabs and a plodding drum beat, before settling into a groove backed by some wistful fingerpicked guitar and weeping string section. The song is as layered and elegant as any of the cuts from Pure Comedy, but whilst those songs held an element of satirical, devilish joy, this track feels like Tillman at his melodramatic peak, truly living up to what he’s dubbed his ‘heartbreak album’. The lyricism on the song feels like Tillman is trying to take himself seriously, entering into a kind of post-ironic, affected sadness that’s an odd fit for someone with the name ‘Father John Misty’. It seems strange to have blown-out statements of musical talent (“I know my way around a tune / Won’t be a single dry eye in a room”) juxtaposed with a sincere emotional core (“But I’m just dumb enough to try / To keep you in my life /For a little while longer”) as the Father John Misty persona blends uncomfortably with the man behind the mask. It’s not to say that Tillman is forbidden from being serious – but it represents a dissonant reversion to his solo career, albeit jazzed up with some strings and a fuzzy guitar line.
Typically Father John Misty songs end up sounding a lot better in the context of the record – so maybe it will take some time to adjust to this new, more serious tone Tillman is curating on God’s Favourite Customer – but it might need a few tracks that are a little more immediate, and a little less confused as to what they want to bring out in the listener.
‘Just Dumb Enough To Try’ is out now via Bella Union