Saturday, January 06, 2007

Randomiser #6: 6 January 2007

Today's song: Daniel Johnston, "The Beatles."

How appropriate, I think they're showing The Devil In Daniel Johnston on More4 in a few days. If you haven't heard of Daniel Johnston, he's a bipolar songwriter who had a bit of cult success a good 15-20 years ago. Kurt Cobain used to wear his T-shirts. He never crossed over to the mainstream, for two main reasons. First, a lo-fi aesthetic which was, shall we say, challenging. And second, he's an outsider artist with all that that entails - it's very much open to interpretation whether he's a talented songwriter in the conventional sense, or just mad in an interesting way. There's a lot of very direct, naive stuff in his songs - "The Beatles" spends a lot of time telling us how great the Beatles were as if this were a novel observation - and since Johnston is basically non-functional in the real world and prone to producing childlike drawings, you've got to wonder how far it's really an affectation.

His admirers will tell you he's a genius; I've never been convinced. Mind you, he's often interesting, and he does write a good tune if you give it a polish. "The Beatles" - which comes from a very good Rough Trade compilation album, and is the only thing I own by him - is one of his better produced records, and it's not bad at all... but I can never shake the feeling that I'm listening to an essentially middling talent whose appeal lies mainly in his fascinating mental health problems.

- Donny Tourette has already left Celebrity Big Brother, having presumably achieved his aim of raising his profile, and figured out that sticking around to meekly play along with silly games would not assist his cause. Can't say I blame him, really.