- 08 Apr 22
Tinseltown in the golden age
Across the Father John Misty canon, there exists a whiff of the organ player in the crematorium playing ‘Chariots Of Fire’: people don’t know how to react, requiring the canned laughter on ‘Bored In The USA’ for permission to giggle.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Sure, many Joshua Tillman songs – ‘I’m Writing A Novel’ on debut Fear Fun, the shoddy marriage proposal of ‘I Went To The Store One Day’ on I Love You, Honeybear – could be delivered as comedy sketches. But conversely, the comedic slash-hook he wields punctures deeper into the soul.
On ‘Leaving LA’ from Pure Comedy, Tillman is becoming, “a little less human with each release”, a trail that leads to the lonely penthouse burnout of God’s Favourite Customer. But Tillman commands a John Prine longevity, and on Chloë And The Next 20th Century, he sheds several skins.
On the opening track, the titular Chloë, at the end of summer, walks onto her balcony, and after putting on “‘Flight of the Valkyries’, at her 31st birthday party, took a leap into the autumn leaves.” It is a prelude to an epic, orchestral album that recalls the Golden Age of Hollywood. Tillman goes full bore over the rainbow – channeling Streisand on ‘Funny Girl’ and Dean Martin on ‘Olvidado (Otro Momento)’.
Perennial FJM touchstone George Harrison, along with Between The Buttons-era Stones, haunt lead single ‘Q4’. Kris Kristofferson, meanwhile, scorches ‘Goodbye Mr. Blue’. And ‘The Next 20th Century’ contains a coda of Val Kilmer silhouetted against a technicolor sunset with a Spaghetti Western crackle.
If God’s Favourite Customer laid bare the density of Pure Comedy, Chloë And The Next 20th Century is the full hootenanny.