His dark ma­te­ri­als

Af­ter Pure Com­edy’s sta­teof-hu­man­ity ad­dress, Josh Till­man has an­other go at re­mov­ing the plank from his own eye. By Vic­to­ria Se­gal.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Albums -

Fa­ther John Misty God’s Fa­vorite Cus­tomer

EVEN A lis­tener with a pause but­ton can be ex­hausted by Josh Till­man: the on-stage rants, the con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­views, the wind-ups, the mu­sic. No won­der, then, that the com­pli­cated singer-song­writer also sounds a lit­tle tired on his fourth al­bum as Fa­ther John Misty. 2015’s ux­o­ri­ous I Love You, Honey­bear was an elab­o­rate con­fec­tion of self-loathing, self-re­gard and sel­f­rev­e­la­tion, a cake he de­ci­sively had and ate; last spring’s Pure Com­edy widened its scope, hu­man his­tory fil­tered through his apoc­a­lyp­tic world­view. By com­par­i­son, God’s Fa­vorite Cus­tomer seems al­most sub­dued, the lurid sleeve car­toons of Pure Com­edy re­placed by a moody por­trait of Till­man, his favourite sub­ject of all. In­spired by a rough patch – liv­ing in a ho­tel, heart­break, hedonism – these songs feel less slip­pery, free from gar­ish lyrics about Tay­lor Swift (although Ja­son Is­bell is namechecked) or trig­gers for Twit­ter rows about au­then­tic­ity. There is, how­ever, re­straint; it’s lush, but not ev­ery line tries to spit out a di­a­mond. “Put your­self in my shoes,” Till­man sings, or “I’m in over my head” – fa­mil­iar, thread­bare phrases, hard to hide be­hind. The Palace’s Judee Sill swell is a par­tic­u­larly del­i­cate, light­headed ac­count of sep­a­ra­tion, house­keep­ing and room ser­vice no match for a home, while the ti­tle track falls into old habits: God a kind of bar­man, Till­man as “trou­ble”. When he does get flash – “point­less ben­ders with rep­til­ian strangers” on Please Don’t Die’s coun­try bil­low – the word­play jars. Yet God’s Fa­vorite Cus­tomer isn’t merely a more bor­ing Fa­ther John Misty record, de­spite some in-his-sleep AOR bal­ladry. The Stooges-spite of Date Night seems like a blog-age up­date of Pave­ment’s Range Life, while the stormy drums of Hang­out At The Gal­lows push to­wards the prog light. He plays his old self-ref­er­en­tial games on Mr Till­man, a di­a­logue be­tween an un­rav­el­ling, para­noid singer and a con­cerned ho­tel re­cep­tion­ist over a bit­ter­sweet El­liott Smith roll. There’s more re­flec­tion on The Song­writer, where Till­man imag­ines swap­ping jobs with his part­ner. “Would you un­dress me re­peat­edly in pub­lic/To show how very noble and naked you could be?” he asks, over quiet pi­ano, adding self­flag­el­la­tion to the thought ex­per­i­ment. Over 10 songs, how­ever, things soften – not with I Love You, Honey­bear sen­ti­ment, but with a prag­ma­tism closer to Pure Com­edy’s bleak res­ig­na­tion. The lin­ger­ing ELO em­brace of Dis­ap­point­ing Di­a­monds Are The Rarest Of Them All uses per­fectly un­ro­man­tic im­agery to sug­gest en­dur­ing love: “Like a car­cass left out in the heat/This love is burst­ing out of me,” he sings. We’re Only Peo­ple (And There’s Not Much Any­one Can Do About That), mean­while, sug­gests that as you age, “com­pany gets pretty thin” so “why not me, why not you, why not now?” It’s a very good ques­tion. Af­ter the bil­ious vi­sions of Pure Com­edy, God’s Fa­vorite Cus­tomer can feel like run­ning emo­tional re­pairs, a hold­ing pat­tern, tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion. For an artist who is of­ten

too much, how­ever, it is just enough.

It’s hymn again: Fa­ther John Misty waits to be served.

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