Is And Always Was
Revered outsider artist makes move on the mainstream
Rating: 7 / 10
Francis Jones, 17 Nov 2009
On the opening ‘Mind Movies’, Daniel Johnston describes himself as ‘just a psycho trying to write a song’. Johnston, whose struggles with bipolar disorder were chronicled in the 2006 documentary The Devil And Daniel Johnston, has never been afraid to address his problems through his music. He’s a brave and honest songwriter. Also included here is the touchingly humorous ‘I Had Lost My Mind’, a Pavement-esque ode to mislaying his faculties. “I’m always losing that dang thing”, he admits.
Out of whack he may occasionally be, but melody is one thing that Johnston has firmly marshalled. The Beatles have been a mainstay of his life from an early age, and it shows. Like those great pop classicists, Johnston’s breezy choruses are simply the sugar that helps the medicine go down. Innocent, yet constantly enquiring, his songs raise all the important questions. ‘Without You’ tackles unrequited love, ‘Queenie The Doggie’ is a sweet lament for his canine chum, and ‘Tears’ makes its point with devastating simplicity – “I could cry like nothing was right”, he utters sadly.
Johnston, who was initially famed for his DIY approach, here fully utilises the band and facilities afforded him. He’s assisted in his endeavours by fellow Beatles aficionado Jason Falkner. Together they ensure that these songs twinkle and shine in all the right places. Indeed, on this showing, the leap from cherished cult to widespread recognition looks eminently achievable.