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) ***

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