- Like anything that comes out of the mouth of Father John Misty -- the hipster gadfly persona Josh Tillman adopted after leaving the Fleet Foxes in 2012 -- it can be difficult to discern whether the title of Pure Comedy is intended sincerely. Father John Misty cherishes his public role as a prankster, a stance that can sometimes seem at odds with his grand artistic ambitions. And, make no mistake about it, Pure Comedy is indeed a very grand record, an old-fashioned major statement designed to evoke memories of classic long-players from the '70s. Often, its stately march and decorated pianos call to mind early Elton John, suggesting the hazy vistas of Madman Across the Water. This shift toward progressive pop underscores how Father John Misty has streamlined his music since I Love You, Honeybear, whittling away the minor feints toward modern music and stripping away lingering rustic folk influences. He's now a postmodern troubadour, halfway between a song poet and a baroque craftsman. Where his antecedents (and clear influences) Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman sculpted their music and words, Tillman isn't quite so restrained. He's a maximalist, overstuffing his lyrics with florid imagery and letting his songs spill out at lengths up to 13 minutes. From a certain angle, all this can play like an elaborate stunt -- particularly when he baits the listener with lines about "bedding Taylor Swift" -- but there's a strong melancholy undercurrent to Pure Comedy that suggests Father John Misty is something more than a jester. All of this can be felt through the music itself -- through the melodies and movement, through the arrangement and production -- and that, more than the verbal gymnastics, is why Pure Comedy delivers upon much of Father John Misty's outlandish promises. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Rolling Stone - 4 stars out of 5 -- "PURE COMEDY distills terabytes-worth of doomsaying Facebook rants into a 75-minute comic-existential opus that functions like a despair inoculation."
Spin - "[T]he work evokes increasing comparisons to `70s singer-songwriters like Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson, who hid their acidic commentary within sturdy pop structures."
Entertainment Weekly - "The 75-minute opus is his most boldly experimental and richly produced album to date, with 13 songs that touch on baroque pop, orchestral folk, stark piano balladry, and even gospel." -- Grade: B+
Uncut - "[E]ven the detractors had to admire his craftsmanship, and how his epic barbed narratives could be accommodated as gorgeous piano ballads that recalled peak Elton and Nilsson."
Magnet - "Tillman wisely scales back the orchestration and flourishes to their bare minimum in order to put his voice and lyrics at the forefront. This approach reaches its zenith on the album's centerpiece: the 10-verse, chorus-less diatribe that is 'Leaving LA,' a metatextual, self-referential masterstroke."
NME (Magazine) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "The elegiac 'When The God of Love Returns There'll Be Hell To Pay' is the perfect fusion of heart-melting melody and contemplative lyricism, setting him apart as one of the greatest modern songwriters we have."
Paste (magazine) - "It's a comedy in every sense of the word....The central joke being the perfectly dissonant balance of sincerity and sarcasm conveyed by music and lyrics alike."
Pitchfork (Website) - "It is intense, fatalistic, exhausting, and grandiose -- sometimes devastating, sometimes pretentious. So yes, it is a Father John Misty album, and Josh Tillman still excels at tormenting those unlucky souls who enjoy his music."
Clash (Magazine) - "It's a hybrid of angst and sarcasm and pure beauty. From the chaotic collage of noise opening `Pure Comedy' we're flung head first into a gorgeous ballad that teeters on the edge of uncomfortable and bliss..."