Father John Misty is an infant Christ feeding from the Virgin Mary's left breast in a garden populated by hell-beasts. The brilliant album artwork seen on I love You, Honeybear is a testament to what Father John Misty a.k.a Joshua Tillman, former drummer of Fleet Foxes, is into. It's a nod to the subtle occult imagery made infamous by bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, albeit a bit more straightforward. It extends further than providing shock value; Tillman has tapped the enduring rock and roll sentiment of "Do what thou wilt..." Rather than religious law and destiny, free will and self-exploration reign supreme. Want to mingle with the divine? Abandon worship/meditation and drop acid instead.
With this release, Misty has proven himself to be a champion of satire, a witty blasphemer, and a hedonistic poet ablaze with love. The ubiquitous theme is his recent marriage and the ardent, alien love that he shares with his wife, but he builds upon that foundation with comments on the sick state of society and not-so-cryptic references to his interest in mind-altering substances and the occult. "I Love You, Honeybear" spells it out crystal clear in typical Tillman fashion: "You're bent over the alter/And the neighbors are complaining/That the misanthropes next door/Are probably conceiving a Damien." Like it or not, this is a love poem. Perhaps in fear of coming off too sappy, the author produced "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment;" a painfully nasty and disturbingly eloquent rant about a one-night-stand and the subject's many character flaws: "She says like, literally music is the air she breathes/And the malaprops make me wanna fucking scream/I wonder if she even knows what that word means/Well it's literally not that." This is the kind of catharsis that usually isn't accepted. We're supposed to feel bad about thinking similar thoughts, yet Tillman vomits them with prideful abandon.
The stinging vocal content rests on a bed of airy, cavernous instrumentation akin to more traditional iterations of indie folk. The music evokes a daydream, the lyrics a nightmare. It's a wonderful juxtaposition adding yet another layer of sinister appeal. And Misty's voice is as smooth as a summer breeze as he spews hellfire.
His savage soliloquy builds and reaches its gloriously sordid climax in the final three tracks. "Bored In The USA" is at once solemn and apathetic, a meditation on the futility of our existence and the sad constructs that our society relies on. Father John preaches about sex with strangers and sub-prime loans as an audience laughs and claps. It's all one big joke. A disenfranchised narrator belts, "Love is just an institution based on human frailty," as strings swell and lonely guitar chords ring in "Holy Shit." This is indie folk for anti-pop counterculturists and it's goddamn beautiful. We're left with a subjugated Tillman chronicling the development of his own love, which he seems to truly believe in, even if he has a fucked up way of expressing it.
Watch Father John preach in the hypnotizing, candle lit performance below, and pick up your copy of the album here.