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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.

Customer Reviews

Great album from a tortured genius

1990 is my absolute favorite Daniel Johnston album. Written during a hard time, the paranoia and distrust of LA shines through on such songs as Decil Town and Tears Stupid Tears. While not the beat musician, Johnston's greatest talent is his songwriting and nowhere is it stronger than on 1990.

spirit world rising

the best song ive ever heard in my entire life. i dnt know why, i dont believe in god or satan, its just the best.

One of his best professional studio albums!

For sure this is the best (in my opinion) studio album he has! The man is a genius and he needs to be heard! The album is centered mostly around his belief in God but don't let that discourage you from buying it!


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...
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