Daniel Johnston German

Let the debate resume, because the alt-world's favorite musical mental patient is back with his first new release in six years. Is he being exploited, or is his artistic self-expression therapeutically beneficial?
     Nobody's mind will be changed by this live set of 22 songs, recorded last summer in Berlin, and handsomely packaged with a great big booklet full of notes, drawings and pictures. Johnston, heavier, greyer, but just as fragile-voiced as ever, begins at the grand piano, switches to guitar, then goes back to the piano, and not only manages not to fall apart (although a scary episode after a technical glitch is edited out,) but performs with charm, vigor, and -- can it be? -- a touch of confidence (although he ends by saying "next time, I promise, I'll do a better show.")
     The silly and the touching are here in abundance, and come together in such numbers as the show's highlight, a version of 'Live And Let Die,' in which the Daniel-ized lyrics render the originals bloodied like a Mad Magazine parody. God's still in the house, there's still plenty of frustrated love, and all the tunes pretty much still sound the same (except maybe for the one that sounds like Springsteen's 'Pink Cadillac.')
     But a generation of poseurs hasn't even come close to duplicating the strength of his passionate, utterly idiosyncratic vision. Laugh at him if you like, only he ain't laughing.
     "You can't break a broken heart." Amen, Daniel.

Why Me?
last updated: 11.06.2000 | top