When Josh Tillman – aka Father John Misty – appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert earlier this month, he had been planning to do a comedy skit with the host involving a lullaby. Posting it on Soundcloud on Saturday (January 23) Tillman wrote, “Unfortunately the bit was cut for time/content”. ‘Content’ is the operative word here, because even though Colbert’s show is late, its producers wouldn’t want to send their viewers to sleep just after hearing these lyrics. They’re like a Kafka novel condensed into a three-minute song. It’s like a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode that never made it to air. Don’t believe us? Let’s listen and read along in ten horrifying steps.
1. “Close your eyes, now shut them tight – maybe you’ll sleep right through the night”
Classic lullaby beginning: soft, acoustic guitar; melodious piano; touch of glockenspiel; sweet lyrics.
2. “and perhaps the visions that plague your mind, for one merciful night, will finally subside”
Things get ominous. What visions?
3. “[Visions] of a corridor lined with portraits of you, that are screaming your name as you look for the room where you left your phone and your reptile mask, your blood-diamond scarab and human-hair hat”
Ok, slightly freaky.
4. “…as you’re frantically scanning your spherical map which suddenly morphs into the face of your dad shaking his head in the far-right field stands and you realise your penis has become detached.”
Freudian Father Complex meets surreal horror.
5. “You discover the circuitry under your skin at the moment the orgy’s supposed to begin, all your co-workers are waiting for you to start, except now you’re all standing in your childhood yard”
Brilliant. Can today get any worse?
6. “and they’re pointing at the pile of birds in the yard that you hid behind the shed in the corner of the yard, the dead birds you collected and hid in the yard that your neighbour set fire to in the corner of the yard, oh the smell of dead birds that are burning in the yard, the pile of dead birds that you worked on so hard, and you grab your mom’s shin and you beg her for help, and she tells you that bird-burning boys go to hell”
Yep, it can. The melody sours, darkens, while the lyrics go the maddeningly repetitive route of Kafka and Edgar Allen Poe. Losing it yet?
7. “before maggots erupt from a crease in the sheets which are suddenly a patchwork of lunchable meats”
Salami duvets: tasty and comfortable. Where are those screams coming from?
8. “but a man dressed in white lies says ‘backwards to eat, or you’ll have to sing Stephen Colbert right to sleep for millions of people on national TV'”
Things get meta here.
9. “and you’re standing stark naked covered with tattoos you have no recollection of agreeing to and the audience gets bored and they all start to boo, you forget how to walk and your teeth become loose and you’re telling strange people this isn’t your life.”
The cacophony reaches a climax here, at the point that probably would have been the visual payoff for the Colbert skit. Why was it cut?
10. “Or maybe, sweet one, you won’t have nightmares tonight.”
If the above is proof of anything, it’s that Father John Misty has a perverse, twisted mind – and he should use it to write a horror movie. We would totally watch it.