Father John Misty, “God’s Favorite Customer”

Father John Misty
God’s Favorite Customer
SUB POP
7/10

When the gentleman dramatist and serial ironist Father John Misty sings the line, “I’ll take it easy with the morbid stuff” on the swooshing “Please Don’t Die” from his newest album, you can’t help but laugh at the self-referential poke. And maybe even believe him. If his last album—2017’s Pure Comedy—accomplished anything beyond being wry, it was to act accordingly with its tremulous times, suffer the hammily apocalyptic and gloomily theatrical present, and hold an Evelyn Waugh–like handkerchief to its temples. And somehow, he still made you believe that he believed the end times were near. That’s his charm.

But Josh Tillman seems to have turned the other cheek, focusing on the insular, singular self and the characters in one’s immediate, tunnel-vision sights for the opulent but folksy God’s Favorite Customer. The title track alone shows that Misty is not quite ready to move on from the morbid and society’s greater screw-ups. Yet “The Songwriter” begins the slow move from an outside perspective (“What would it sound like if you were the songwriter?”) to a narrower focus: himself. With that, the old joke “enough-about-me, what-do-you-think-about-me?” seeps quietly into Misty’s lyrical mix. When he warble-croons, “We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That),” I’m pretty certain he’s saying that he’s only human, and the only human acting humanly. Deal with it.

“Just Dumb Enough to Try” stretches the intrapersonal further than Misty has before in its desire to disconnect (from one single relationship, or many all at once), but simultaneously showcases his inability to say “no” to the attention. On some occasions, that decision seems small and twee, as on the Beatles-ish musical hall folk of “Mr. Tillman,” where a tale of look-at-me eccentricity (“Don’t be alarmed, this is just my vibe”) is bathed in cascading pianos. “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” also allows Misty’s Beatles fixation—as well as a cynical view of what everlasting love dares to mean—to roam free.

Yet, in the end—and this could be the twist to the new Misty—maybe he doesn’t need you to be a star (“Does everybody have to be the greatest story ever told?”). And maybe being a star in and of itself is more than he can bear. God’s Favorite Customer is at times more than I could bear, but the grand nobility of struggling to find a sense of inner peace—or an actor’s ideal of inner peace—sounds lovelier, homier, and looser here than Misty has allowed in the recent past. He may indeed be God’s Favorite Customer—and if so, it’s a cool customer with whom the Lord is doing business. 

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