P unk is dead. This is an adage as old as punk itself usually spoken by those who’ve just grown out of it. And yet… there are certain figures in our modern musical landscape who fit the bill without even attempting to appeal to the crowd of orthodox kids in jean jackets buying Misfits shirts at Hot Topic (at least that was true when I was in high school a decade ago). Enter Father John Misty. The former drummer (nee Josh Tillman) for very-self serious indie folk band Fleet Foxes has now released two albums, the most recent being last year’s “I Love You Honeybear” and is, to me, the closest thing to a punk idol I will have in my adulthood. He has more contempt for his audience than any other musician except for Lou Reed in his prime. His most recent single “The Memo” may be the peak of his nastiness wherein the artist threatens to crucify our best and brightest young lads as an act of faux artistic sincerity and closes out the song by stating “You keep the golden calf/ I just need the bullshit/ They won’t just sell themselves into slavery/ They’ll get on their knees and pay you to believe” all delivered over what can only be called soft rock music like some kind of psychotic bearded hipster Elton John.
This is what we are reduced to, snarking over pianos instead of sneering at the respectable people like our forefathers. There’s a reason that this furious manchild first burst onto our mine and many other people’s consciousnesses doing his best Springsteen sendup on a late episode of Letterman.
Ol’ Dave practically invented that kind of cold sarcasm but when he started doing it in the 1980s America was a bit too preoccupied with the wholesome entertainment offered by Spielberg and Reagan to really make him an icon. Plus, David Letterman was very much of the wrong generation to be like that. Boomers in the 80s were the establishment already, the kids my age in 2016 aren’t. Guess who still is? Father John Misty is not at the forefront of an adolescent revolution. When he howls at his would-be lover in his song “The Ideal Husband” that he’s ready to settle down by saying “Let’s put a baby in the oven” I take it as a point that people of his age would have been considering such milestones of adulthood 30 years ago when Ronnie was still in the White House but now? Shit man, burn it all. Real punks don’t do anything but preach to the choir and the music that the typical Spotify listener is hearing is full of the self affirmation, self love promoting claptrap of Beyonce and her billionaire husband’s endless harping on how he became exactly so fantastically rich. That kind of art is what’s gonna make Donald Trump president.
Father John Misty is fiddling while Rome burns and nobody will ever elect him emperor of anything but I will reiterate: we are not so young anymore, what happens when we’re actually put in charge? Who will put us in charge? Of what will we be the rulers over? I’ll quote the good padre’s memo one last time “Friends it’s not self-love that kills you/ It’s when those who hate you are allowed/ To sell you that you’re a glorious shit the entire world revolves around / And that you’re the eater, and not the eaten/ But that your hunger will only cease/ If you come binge on radiant blandness at the disposable feast”