Release Date: Apr 17, 2012
Record label: Eternal Yip Eye Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Daniel Johnston is a towering figure in popular culture, but the American songwriter's presence is far from ubiquitous, instead seeping through intermittently in select, highly potent shards over the past two decades. Kurt Cobain was famously photographed wearing a t-shirt featuring the cover of one his early records, Brand New's universally lauded magnum opus The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me took its title from a conversation lead singer Jesse Lacey had with a friend about Johnston, and 2006's award winning documentary The Devil And Daniel Johnston brought the iconic musician to his widest audience to date. Johnston has released over a dozen full-lengths of original material, been covered by artists as diverse and renowned as The Flaming Lips, Tom Waits and Teenage Fanclub, and had his artwork exhibited in London and New York galleries: a staggering list of achievements for a man plagued by with mental illness for much of his life.
There’s been a dearth of concept albums about ducks recently (a gap I’d hoped to fill with my ‘Quack My Bitch Up’ EP featuring Drake), but despite the surreal subject matter Johnston’s soundtrack for his own comic book is romantic and deeply human. Deer Tick, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and others all contribute a track each, but the highlights come when the Texan singer-songwriter reworks The Beatles on ‘Sense Of Humor’, a heartbroken facsimile of ‘I Am The Walrus’, and when he laconically drops truth-bombs on ‘Mean Girls Give Pleasure’. Even on his weirdest duck tales, Johnston’s music comes straight from the heart.Kevin EG Perry .
“Listen up and I’ll tell a story/About an artist growing old/Some would try for fame and glory/Others just like to watch the world.” These are the famous lyrics from “The Story of an Artist” written by Daniel Johnston in 1982. Now considerably older, much like the artist he once wrote about, the elder statesman of cracked geniuses returns with the Space Ducks Soundtrack, yet another chapter in Johnston’s bizarre discography, which finds the artist comfortably growing old and apparently having a lot fun along the way. Space Ducks, a soundtrack to a Johnston-drawn comic that also spawned an iPad app, is musically fleshed out by seven tracks of his own and contributions from five other artists.
In a career that has spanned more than 30 years and seen more than 20 full-length releases as well as various dalliances with the likes of Yo La Tengo and Jad Fair, Daniel Johnston has, strangely, been more consistently well known for how beloved he is to other musicians than for his own output. His first exposure to many was in the form of a t-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain bearing the Hi, How Are You? album cover image; many know him from the seemingly endless stream of tribute albums created in his name, more from the documentary film The Devil and Daniel Johnston. That postmodern curiosity aside, there’s something that sticks in the craw about the way Johnston is received (and nothing at all to do with his work).