Father John Misty: God's Favorite Customer review – downsides to the confession profession

(Bella Union)

When is the car crash real, and when is it CGI? The issue of honesty has reared up again and again during the course of Josh Tillman’s career as Father John Misty, not least because of his own obfuscation. Last year, he told the Observer his lyrics “are the most true things I will ever say”, but in the same interview he also said the truth about him lay somewhere between believing his songs to be truthful reporting or seeing them as “beta-male, self-aware trickery”.

The interviews Tillman gave to support Pure Comedy last year suggested a man drifting free of his moorings, and God’s Favorite Customer is full of rootless desolation. Hotels are a theme, not as symbols of travel and freedom, but for dissociating one from place, for leaving one adrift. The Palace finds the narrator “living on housekeeping and room service”, but dependent on something more – “it’s only been three weeks and a bag of speed from Jamie the PhD”. He doesn’t want to leave, but knows he needs to be fixed, because “I’m way in over my head”. In Mr Tillman – the album’s most beautiful melody, one that sounds as if it has existed forever – he’s checking in, so divorced from reality that the reception staff have to tell him the other people are not actors on a movie set. “Is there someone we can call?” it concludes, “Perhaps you shouldn’t drink alone?”

Closest to home, perhaps, is The Songwriter. “What would it sound like if you were the songwriter / And you made your living off me?” Tillman asks. “Would you undress me repeatedly in public / To show how very noble and naked you can be?” It’s a reminder that “confessional” writing is a morally compromised act, since it exploits those who have no desire to confess. As ever, the music is lush and 1970s-styled, albeit not as lush as before: it’s only rabbit fur in texture, rather than mink. But Tillman’s voice – which rarely gets mentioned in considerations of his success – is as wonderful as ever, clear and true, and warm and approachable, even if close examination reveals the deep damage beneath the veneer. So is the car crash real? If it’s CGI, the effects are better than ever.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Father John Misty: Pure Comedy review – wonderfully uneasy listening
Josh Tillman’s dark pronouncements, set to luscious, 70s-style orchestration, update the idea of the confessional singer-songwriter for the post-truth era

Alexis Petridis

06, Apr, 2017 @2:30 PM

Father John Misty: Fear Fun – review
Josh Tillman's eighth album, now under the name Father John Misty, sees him hitting an amazing vein of form, writes Dorian Lynskey

Dorian Lynskey

20, Dec, 2012 @10:45 PM

Article image
Father John Misty: ‘I get sick pleasure out of reading about how much people hate me’
Josh Tillman says he has given himself permission to self-destruct again. He talks about turning his latest album, Pure Comedy, into an ‘insane’ musical – and why Trump’s victory was like the Gen-X humour he was weaned on ‘having a cruel orgasm’ in his mind

Dorian Lynskey

30, Mar, 2017 @12:02 PM

Article image
Father John Misty review – Jim Morrison’s head on Jarvis Cocker’s body
The crazed Casanova doesn’t so much own the stage as lease the land for miles around in a pelvis-thrusting, guitar hurling show

Dave Simpson

12, May, 2016 @11:19 AM

Article image
Father John Misty and Four Tet top Green Man festival lineup
Sharon Van Etten and Idles also heading for Wales’s largest music festival, alongside Amadou & Mariam and the reformed Stereolab

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

29, Jan, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Father John Misty review – I am the resurrection
Josh Tillman’s miraculous transformation from maudlin balladeer to country-soul showman Father John Misty is a joy to behold

Kitty Empire

01, Nov, 2015 @8:00 AM

Article image
Mac DeMarco and Father John Misty first headliners of End of the Road 2017
The music festival amid Wiltshire foliage returns with an eclectic selection of psych, indie and Americana

Guardian music

08, Feb, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Father John Misty review – great songs, shame about the trolling
Josh Tillman’s lush songs are delivered with a knowing razzmatazz, only slightly tainted by his offstage antics

Kitty Empire

12, Nov, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
The best albums of 2017: the full list
St Vincent tops our countdown of this year’s most outstanding sounds, from complex rap to moody rock, alt-R&B, inventive grime and more

05, Dec, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
Father John Misty review – papa ain’t got a brand new bag
If Josh Tillman’s quietly released new LP suggested trouble in paradise, there is no sign of it in this lush, entertaining set

Kitty Empire

03, Jun, 2018 @8:00 AM