Father John Misty - "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution"

by PopMatters Staff

11 August 2017

Father John tackles the modern age and wins. It’s hard to write an anti-consumerist tune and not come off as monumentally preachy, but he just about does it.

Chris Ingalls: Pure Comedy is a giant leap forward for Father John Misty, not just in terms of his already high “mystique” factor; it also shows his songwriting prowess growing by leaps and bounds. The piano-led compositions and analog studio techniques show a maturity that falls somewhere between Brian Wilson, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson, all major-seventh orchestrations and heart-on-sleeve vocalizing. Indie rock isn’t supposed to be this sophisticated. Thank goodness Josh Tillman is here to break conventions. [9/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: The tune comes second to the message here: a reminder of the world we’re heading toward, barren, burning, hostile, and our own damn fault. It’s scathing in its indictment of mankind’s current refusal to shape up, but there’s a kernel of humor in here as Father John Misty gives a shout out to the stubbornness of human nature. “There are some visionaries among us / Developing some products / To aid us in our struggle to survive / On this godless rock that refuses to die,” he sings to close out his tale of post-apocalypse. I think he’s made his point. [7/10]

Ian Rushbury: Father John tackles the modern age and wins. It’s hard to write an anti-consumerist tune and not come off as monumentally preachy, but he just about does it. “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” combines the “Instant Karma” drum sound with an early ‘70s Elton John piano part to great effect. A pretty vocal melody belies the gravitas of the lyric (“The super-ego shatters with our ideologies”) and the arrangement is crammed with lovely details—horn parts and orchestral swells pop up at unexpected moments. It’s all squished into just over four minutes. This, ladies and gents, is a real piece of work and someone needs to get their body weight in awards for the stop-motion video that accompanies the tune. [9/10]

Chris Thiessen: Father John Misty tackles hot topics with pretty much every track from his newest effort. Here we get an apocalypse brought on by underclass revolution over our treatment of the earth in light of global warming. It’s hard to swallow the cynical, condescending tone that Tillman’s narrator takes on. However, it’s hard to refute the truths and observations he makes on our society. [7/10]

John Garratt: I’m tempted to file this song title under “Oh, Do Shut Up, Won’t You?” But no, let’s give this a chance. Turn out that the song itself is just as overwrought and convoluted as its name. If you were just reading a print-out of the lyrics, it would be unthinkable to match it to music. At least there is stop-motion animation. [4/10]

Jordan Blum: This is my introduction to Father John Misty, and I really like its prophetic and relevant subject matter, as well as his voice and the way the music moves between gentle reflection and bombastic, orchestrated discomfort. It feels plucked straight from the singer/songwriter trend of the early ‘70s. The most appealing part for me is the video, though, which feels like what would happen if Wes Anderson reteamed with the Fantastic Mr. Fox crew for an apocalyptic tale in the vein of The Road or The Last of Us. [9/10]

Spyros Stasis: On his new album, Pure Comedy, Josh Tilman shows his take on a series of issues from technology and religion to climate change. The latter is the focal point of this single, which is beautifully illustrated in the animation that accompanies it. The post-apocalyptic world has arrived and everything seems to be gone, while Tilman’s sharp commentary about existence “on this godless rock that refuses to die” provide the details. The indie folk tone sets a fantastic tone and the build-up of the track is epic, without going over the top but providing a moving and at the same time sardonic touch. [7/10]

SCORE: 7.43

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