Is and Always Was
High Wire Music
Daniel Johnston, pop star?
Stranger things have happened… Although I can’t recall any at the moment, if ever it were to occur, Johnston’s first studio record in seven years might be the ticket to ride for the unique Texan. And it’s due to the soundcrafting of producer Jason Falkner (Jellyfish, The Three O’Clock), who has wrapped Daniel’s singular creations in layers of guitar, strings, and synths for a sort of XTC meets The Beatles in ELO’s rehearsal space mood. But while the coating might be a bit more advanced and mainstream than what you’d normally expect, the heart of the songs is vintage Daniel Johnston. The topics range from an ode to “Queenie the Doggie” to his mental state in “I Had Lost My Mind,” and of course the love songs, the mainstay of his emotional viewpoint.
All in all, the record works, although there are moments when the production wants to overwhelm the song (and the singer) such as on echo-drenched, Cheap Trickian “Lost In My Infinite Memory,” but anyone who has grown to love the deeply personal and unique art that is Daniel Johnston will find enough familiar themes and “Danielisms” to satisfy. In the end Is and Always Was might not propel Johnston into the mainstream, but that’s the mainstream’s loss, not his… or ours.
Daniel Johnston: www.hihowareyou.com