Thursday, March 19, 2015

What do you think of today's "angry young men"?


I can't stop listening to the Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) album, even as I become more and more convinced the guy's a minor asshole.

"The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt" is about an affair with annoying, silly person. During their time together she says a bunch of dumb shit, "hoovers" his drugs, and winds up "naked with her best friend in the tub."

I've always had a soft spot for a cranky crooner. And during your "angry young man" years, you leveled some pretty mean lyrics at silly people, many of them women who could sit alongside Tillman's conquest in her tub. So I was initially delighted with lyrics like, "She says like literally music is the air I breathe," or, "every insufferable convo features her patiently explaining the cosmos / of which she's in the middle," or the bit where she compares her own singing to Sarah Vaughan ("I hate that soulful affectation white girls put on / Why don't you move to the Delta?") HAH.

But the more I listen, the hollower it gets. I'm starting to wonder about her, and wonder why Tillman was bothered enough to write an entire song about her. She's just a kid, saying stuff she'll remember in her thirties with a shudder. What's *his* problem?

Even at your meanest, Elvis, you always seemed to be criticizing the institutions/culture that have created the subjects of your ire, more than the people themselves. The silly person was part of something biggerthe "doll revolution" that had inspired her to "tear off her own head." She doesn't escape blame entirely, but criticizing her is not the whole point.

Maybe it's not Tillman's whole point either, but it seems like most of it. And he really seems to enjoy making it. Maybe that's okaymaybe it's just a funny, catchy tunebut, for me, it comes with a side of ick.


UPDATE, weeks later:  I no longer feel the ick. What I've realized is that so much of the album is loving and devoted and almost sickly sweet (never an issue for you, Elvis), so in the context of the whole album, songs like this provide some balance. Together, the songs provide a portrait of an asshole falling in love, and this song is the "before" picture.

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