Wednesday, November 01, 2006

(11.01.06) Recommends:

Daniel Johnston, "Welcome to my World" (High Wire Music, 2006).

Most people probably know the story by now. Johnston, the Waller, Tx based artist with bipolar condition, started making -- and handing out to anybody who would take one -- low-fi casette tapes of his keyboard-and-vocals music in the 1980s. He attained mainstream notice in the 1980s, thanks to the Austin music scene, exposure on Mtv, and praise by other established rock stars. This album is like a greatest hits compilation. Some people inevitably give in to the urge of feeling uncomfortable when dealing with the fruits of someone like Johnston, because of his bipolar condition. The feeling, I suppose, is uncertainty over whether when we laugh and smile with the music, we're doing so because we actually like the music -- and thus are actually laughing and smiling with Johnston -- or whether we're laughing and smiling at Johnston. I appreciate that people have this urge, I suppose. But when I listen to a track like "Don't Let the Sun Go Down" I just can't understand the urge. It is such a catchy tune. I mean, he clearly recorded this thing in a garage, and as far as the world was aware, the garage was as far as this song would ever go. Yet at the end he's calling out for the crowd to sing along. Is he doing this because he is bipolar? Perhaps. But more than likely, he's doing it because it's something that, say, Bono would do. It's so awesomely rock star. We nominate Bono for a goddam Nobel Peace Prize, but we feel uncomfortable when Daniel Johnston wants to rock out? Puh-lease. Get over yourself already. Once done, get out and give this record a chance. There is some incredibly catchy, witty, funny stuff here. And that's more than we reasonably deserve to receive from Daniel Johnston.

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