Daniel Johnston's in Love With a Mad, Mad World
Some might hear about these episodes and his songs about fighting off aliens, "Walking the Cow," or his "Frankenstein Love" and come away with an impression of Rain Man with an acoustic guitar. Some of this may be by design. Filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig, who directed the 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, says the songwriter exploits his illness -- mythologizing it in the same way Creed's Scott Stapp did his time spent living in a car.
Given the authenticity that Johnston's illness lends his nakedly fervent paeans, it's not surprising to hear it suggested Johnston may gild the lily sometimes. But that's beside the point. However he came to write songs like "The Monster Inside of Me," the song speaks for itself:
You know that I want you. You can see that I need you.
But you hate the monster. Well, honey, I do too.
Maybe if someone had said to Vincent Van Gogh, "Keep punching, Joe!" maybe he'd be here today.
Maybe girl, you could help me destroy the monster inside of me
And we could be happy. And we could be happy.
The wistful tone recalls the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice," but its style is pure Johnston, possessing a candor and forthrightness that enables it to speak for more than just itself, sort of like Springsteen for the heartfelt weirdoes inside us all.
Daniel Johnston is scheduled to perform Sunday, February 3, at Crescent Ballroom.