Undoubtedly, one of the things that makes Daniel Johnston so compelling is the fact that he’s not all there. His well-documented mental health problems – ongoing bipolar disorder, in and out of mental hospitals – render his feral squawk more genuine than your average pained rockstar and consequently far more affecting. When he retreats to nursery rhymes or mimics the lolloping piano of the Sesame Street theme (as on ‘Without You’), the naivety feels poignant rather than forced. But the context of Johnston’s past makes an album as confessional as this an occasionally uncomfortable listen – when he sings, “I’m just a psycho trying to write a song”, that’s no bluff. However, there are plenty of opportunities to overcome the voyeuristic discomfort, at which point the LP becomes a rather joyful blast of goofy west coast 60’s pop.

By Sam Walton

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