Daniel Johnston Live in Berlin (Stress)Danny & the Nightmares

SXSW Records

Daniel Johnston

Live in Berlin (Stress)

Danny & the Nightmares

Daniel Johnston has long been regarded as one of the fathers of the lo-fi movement, an honor it's doubtful he would claim even if he understood it. Johnston's music has been served well by the bare-bones cassette recordings of his songs, which offers no distraction or embellishment to the fact that he pours out his heart and soul with every note he sings or plays. That said, the recordings sound like they do because Johnston had no idea how to "properly" record an album or the money to do it with if he had. That said, Live in Berlin finds Johnston not alone in his room with a Radio Shack tape recorder, but out in front of a monstrous crowd of fans at the Volksbühne in Germany's capital city, recorded and yes, "produced" by men with professional equipment. Even then, however, what's heard is just Daniel, strumming and plinking gamely away at his guitar and piano, opening his insides for the crowd to gawk at in new originals like "Bloody Rainbow" and "Frustrated Artist," as well as his crowd-pleasing rewrite of Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die." Johnston has yet to learn even the most rudimentary elements of working an audience -- his shows can last 10 minutes or two hours, often with him only barely acknowledging the crowd's existence -- so this recording might as well have been done in his bedroom late at night, and that suits Johnston's music just fine. Way on the other end of the spectrum, Danny & the Nightmares finds Johnston fronting a punk/noise trio with unexpectedly successful results. The sound here is bad, make no mistake -- it sounds like a too-hot boom box recording with studio overdubs -- yet once you've given it a moment to soak in, it sounds appropriate enough for the material to be enjoyable. Johnston turns out to be more than adequate as a punk rock screamer on angry numbers like "Why Die" and "Love Is for Losers," while cuts like "No Escape From Love" find the band venturing into Bad Seeds territory. A strange but interesting experiment, though the sloppy cover of "Wild Thing" may stretch the patience of the most open-minded listener. (Thursday, Texas Union Ballroom, Midnight)

(Berlin) ***.5

(Nightmares) ***

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

More by Ken Lieck
The Secret History of the English Language
If the late Douglas Adams had made his mark as a writer of history textbooks, the resulting volumes might read like The Secret History of the English Language

March 7, 2008

Elvis Is Titanic: Classroom Tales From the Other Iraq
If you think you know everything about how America is viewed by the people whom our troops are meant to be protecting, there is much in this volume that will surprise you

Nov. 16, 2007

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle