Daniel Johnston
Welcome to My World Eternal Yip Eye Music http://www.tinymixtapes.comsites/default/files/arton5140_0.jpg

[Eternal Yip Eye Music; 2006]

Rating: 4.5/5 4.5 / 5 (0)

Styles: indie pop, lo-fi, outsider artist
Others: Jad Fair, Jonathan Richman, Syd Barrett


http://media.tinymixtapes.com/

The concept of the idiot savant is sometimes used rather dangerously when discussing pop music. Especially for the musically-obsessed, the discovery of a psychologically-troubled composer/performer can become a grail quest of sorts. The negative effect of this allows some people who are truly in need of help (i.e. Wesley Willis, Wild Man Fischer, et Peter Cetera) to be exploited as novelty acts by opportunistic handlers, yet more positive examples do exist. Without doubt, one such case is Daniel Johnston.

Unfortunately, even in Johnston's case, where his raw talent and unique artistic perspective is unquestionable, his music has suffered from his unstable mental state which can have him turn from pleasantly mellow to troublingly manic on a dime. However, over the years, and particularly throughout the 1980s, before the worst of his episodes had begun to manifest themselves, his recordings have captured him in his most lucid moments where it seems he can best concentrate his attention on his songs. Timed nicely with the theatrical release of a film account of Johnston's travails (The Devil and Daniel Johnston), Welcome to My World offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the finest recordings from this obscure artist.

Despite the inclusion of a couple of rare tracks ("Lennon Song" and "Laurie"), this release is obviously positioned to attract the Johnston neophyte, and in terms of that, it fulfills the goal quite well. There is something a bit perverse about compiling the best material of any musician with such a truly non-commercial sound, but upon listening to so many of his top-quality compositions gathered together, the wisdom of the project becomes apparent. Encompassing a great range lyrically and musically, from the joyful frivolity of "Casper the Friendly Ghost" to the self-aware pathos of "Story of an Artist," the collection sharply brings into focus the impressive skills of Johnston as musical entertainer and storyteller.

Still, it would be dishonest to deny that Johnston's voice is an acquired taste with its childlike timbre and prominent lisp, and his often ham-fisted pounding of the chord organ or vigorous strumming of acoustic guitar can be off-putting in its crudity. Although it is a wonderful attempt to feature his most accomplished work, this is still music that will only appeal to a small fraction of the populace. However, it may be that the film, and its overall sympathetic portrait of Johnston, will put a wider audience in a position where they will crave his naïve quirkiness. Welcome to My World will come as a very welcome find in such cases.

1. Peek A Boo
2. Casper the Friendly Ghost
3. Some Things Last a Long Time
4. Walking the Cow
5. I'm Nervous
6. Man Obsessed
7. Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances
8. Never Before Never Again
9. The Sun Shines Down on Me
10. Chord Organ Blues
11. Living Life
12. Speeding Motorcycle
13. True Love Will Find You in the End
14. Never Relaxed
15. Sorry Entertainer
16. Ain't No Woman Gonna Make a George Jones Outta Me
17. Lennon Song
18. Devil Town
19. Laurie
20. Story of an Artist
21. Funeral Home
Fear Yourself (w/ Mark Linkous)
Gammon, 2003
rating: 3.5/5
reviewer: tamec


Daniel Johnston is a clinically depressed and bipolar holdover musician from the 80s. His fans (some of them, anyhow) constantly battle the "novelty" tag, insisting on sincere examination of Johnston's works. They point out his simple, heartfelt lyrics: cliché coming from a teenager, but touching when sung by a grown man. Typically, Johnston's solo albums (early ones especially) are take-it-or-leave-it collections of simple acoustic guitar and his high-pitched warble. In this reviewer's opinion, Johnston falls somewhere between Tiny Tim and John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. It's not quite funny, and it's not quite musically viable. This said, Johnston has produced a few great albums, and more than a few great songs. To criticize Mark Linkous's sparkling production values and full arrangements on Fear Yourself is to ignore the fact that at this point in his career, Johnston cannot continue to make the same album. Darnielle realized the same thing when he made Tallahassee last year, and the results are similarly mixed. Songs like "Syrup of Tears" and "Now" have strong melodies that make the production values work, while "Must" is overlong and sounds like Johnston is only making about 10% of the music we hear. A certain other online music reviewer claimed that Fear Yourself sounds like the pity of a producer for his backwards artist. Where this album shines is where Johnston sounds excited to be at the front of all this music ("Fish," especially). Hey, Daniel, this isn't so bad.

1. Now
2. Syrup of Tears
3. Mountain Top
4. Love Enchanted
5. Must
6. Fish
7. Power of Love
8. Forever Your Love
9. Love Not Dead
10. You Hurt Me
11. Wish
12. Living It for the Moment

 

1. Peek A Boo
2. Casper the Friendly Ghost
3. Some Things Last a Long Time
4. Walking the Cow
5. I'm Nervous
6. Man Obsessed
7. Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances
8. Never Before Never Again
9. The Sun Shines Down on Me
10. Chord Organ Blues
11. Living Life
12. Speeding Motorcycle
13. True Love Will Find You in the End
14. Never Relaxed
15. Sorry Entertainer
16. Ain't No Woman Gonna Make a George Jones Outta Me
17. Lennon Song
18. Devil Town
19. Laurie
20. Story of an Artist
21. Funeral Home