John Tillman is a hopeless romantic. Better known for his alias, Father John Misty, he is a self-described, self-styled satirist, provocateur, philosopher, and culture warrior—unafraid to casually reference Žižek, Kierkegaard, or Saint Francis of Assisi in conversation.
Wizardry in penning oddball ramblings of his subconscious on his debut Fear Fun, Tillman now touches down with reality and speaks of love. I Love You, Honeybear is a beautifully raw and naked experimentation of love toward his own one-and-only, Emma.
Tillman is a well-spoken man. His interviews act as high school books you pretend to know what’s going on but in fact have little knowledge of the vocabulary. Honeybear may appear full of seeming contradictions from Tillman’s well known public persona (an ayahuasca-taking hermit with the sex appeal to boot) to his Father John Misty guise. Although it’s his ironic twist of personal identity and his famished sense of humour that binds it all together and makes Honeybear to be as cynical as it is delightfully stunning.
We were first introduced to new Father John Misty material last year on David Letterman. Once again, that sex appeal comes built in tow as the bearded gent sings of irrelevance in his own skin and the shallow middle-class of today. The song, ‘Bored in the USA’, leaks of satire and irony that Tillman recognised a laugh track would fit quite rightly. Fair enough, too, as it may be the funniest song you hear this year, “They gave me useless education / And a sub-prime loan on a craftsman home / Oh bored in the USA.” Tillman’s intelligent sense of humour is bright enough to even give those Frasier-watching, high-class, tall glasses of wine listeners a hesitated chuckle.
Musically, Tillman could be, again, playing with contradictions. Songs shaped as country, honky-tonk jaunts, (‘Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow’) an orchestral, grand affair, (‘Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins)’) or the first introduction of the drum machine into Father John Misty’s music, (‘True Affection’). In his deepest sincerity, though, it’s Tillman’s strange affliction of his love to his wife and compulsively rude sense of humour that strings his two torn personas together. It makes Honeybear both an over-extended office dirty joke and the most alien love letter to your beloved.