Daniel Johnston - Is and Always Was
Until now Daniel Johnston has been best known for his troubled state of mind and his resolutely 'garden-shed' approach to recording. His appearance in the acclaimed 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston often made for arse-clenchingly uncomfortable viewing, leaving the man in real danger of becoming disastrously cast in the role of unhinged, doomed genius. Fuck expectation though, the times they are a changin’.
With Is and Always Was Johnston joins forces with fellow Beatles nut Jason Falkner and kicks a gaping hole through the bullshit he’d become surrounded in. This is Daniel Johnston in full 3D, HD, sensurround sound and, while it might alienate the ghoulish fanboys, it suits him down to the ground. Think Sylvester the Cat meets ELO and you’ll be heading along the right tracks towards a collection of simple pop songs which just burst with joy and render his 4 track past a monochrome memory.
In typically perverse style this full fat, well rounded collection of shimmering pop tunes comes wrapped in an ultra basic sleeve which features a skeletal figure (one of Johnston’s cartoon sketches) hammering away at a piano keyboard. That’s thankfully as close as this record comes to his demons, although the tongue–in-cheek ‘I Had Lost My Mind’ tips a knowing wink to his looming legend. Best of the bunch are the trad boogie of ‘Fake Records of Rock n Roll’, which gently rails against the phenomenon of bands reforming in the hope of making a quick buck, and the mesmeric, uplifting epic ‘Light of Day’ which closes the album with our hero heading away from the gathering darkness and into the light.