Art by Thomas Hawk
Thomas Johnson prays to the fleetest fox every night before bed.
Father John Misty is in on the joke. He’s usually the one telling it. The man is as much a descendant of Steve Martin as he is under Bob Dylan’s troubadour umbrella. He can write anti-ballads as caustic as “Like A Rolling Stone” or “Just Like A Woman” (see: “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment), but his sardonic wit has permeated every aspect of the Father John Misty mantel he took upon himself when he came out of a psilocybin induced spirit walk in a tree while staring at the moon in California. Now, he’s a comedian too. “Maybe, Sweet One, You Won’t have Nightmares Tonight” is flat out hilarious. It was written a few weeks ago as an unused bit for The Late Show. He gave a beautiful performance of “Holy Shit” as a fantastic consolation prize, but this was cut for time. We may have missed out on something wondrous, but we received something awe-inspiring in its wake.
The title should have been a dead give away that this was going to get weird. Really weird. Like, Tim Burton on salvia weird. He jumps right in, because the ‘sweet one’ would have made for a much less interesting song. Co-workers, long hallways, screaming portraits, spontaneous eunuchism, co-workers, and a burning pile of birds you collected and hid in the corner of your yard only for your neighbor to light it up resulting in you being called a ‘bird burning boy’ by your mother for which you were subsequently banished to hell. Co-workers. It has the overtop absurdity and illogical curveballs of an adult cartoon like South Park, or some of the more perverted skits from Martin’s days on SNL. Just switch out the banjo for a guitar and an angry audience soundboard.
Interwoven with the hellish bordering and cartoonish chaos he does something interesting: He begins projecting. The look of disapproval from his father; Boring Colbert and being booed; and Lunchables, probably. The nonchalance of his delivery is so effortless its hard not to picture Misty as a wildly inappropriate and self conscious dad who’s had a few too many. Part of his appeal is that the separation of Josh Tillman from Misty has all but disappeared, so whether this is directly inspired by real dreams or the inner operations of the bearded bard doesn’t really matter. They are so interwoven at this point that the person is an act in itself. The poor, fictional, kid.
It sounds as if it should be a neurotic’s high school nightmare, or some unfulfilling wannabe avant-garde indie movie. But it’s not; it’s Father John Misty’s version of a lullaby. A skit centered on this between Colbert and Misty, for the record, would have been gold. But as a standalone song, a piece of comedy or confessional—but certainly not lullaby—it is immensely entertaining. Still, maybe avoid taking anything suspect before bedtime. A nightmare like this would be terrifying.