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Album Review

Daniel Johnston's only Shimmy Disc release provides a nice showcase of the kind of spare and blunt material he excels at and contains plenty of his own brand of preaching. With his minimal guitar/piano accompaniment and childlike vocals, Johnston sounds at once bleak and innocent on nouveau church hymns like "Held the Hand" and "Lord Give Me Hope." He switches gears for some fire and brimstone, though, on the impassioned and painfully comic "Don't Play Cards With Satan" (one of three live numbers recorded at CBGB's). Johnston gets some help from Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo on the rousing, minor-key number "Spirit World Rising" and teams up with Jad Fair for the touching lament "Some Things Last a Long Time." The mood lightens a bit with a cover of the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life," but with Johnston's gothic and chunky piano chords threatening to derail the song, the respite is brief. Johnston's battle with manic depression is well known and is made painfully explicit here when successive live cuts find him in tears at one moment ("Careless Love") and leading a singalong in the next ("Funeral Home"). In spite of the rough going, this Daniel Johnston release is still worth getting. It's certainly a must for his fans and not a bad purchase for the newcomer either.


Born: January 22, 1961 in Sacramento, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As with other talented but troubled artists such as Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, and Roky Erickson, Daniel Johnston fights a daily battle with the chronic mental illness that has plagued him nearly his entire life. However, despite recurrent bouts of delusional behavior wherein he has physically endangered himself and others, Johnston has carved out a respectable, influential career as a singer/songwriter of extraordinary talent who has grown since his first crudely recorded cassette was released in...
Full Bio
1990, Daniel Johnston
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