Being a fan of Daniel Johnston can sometimes be both an enjoyable yet uncomfortable experience. On the one hand there is his honest, childish yet emotional pop music with clever lyrics dealing with love, life and everything in between but on the other there is the knowledge that you’re listening to someone struggling with a severe mental illness and can beg the question ‘am I a voyeur into a world that I can never understand and is it okay to be here and enjoy it?’
The title of this album should unequivocally answer that particular quandary as for everything that Johnston sings about he is nothing if not inclusive with his music and when listening to his pop-rock songs he always gives the impression that he knows exactly what he’s doing and what he’s giving away to his listener.
For anyone not familiar with Johnston’s music or who hasn’t seen the now cult fly-on-the-wall documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Welcome to my World is a great introduction to his most popular work. The 21-track record bounces, yelps and plonks along with a mixture of heartfelt love songs such as ‘Some Things Last a Long Time’, which on first listen could be mistaken for The Flaming Lips, and ‘Man Obsessed’ a fast-moving, poorly recorded ditty about losing a girl to a guy who works in a funeral parlour. Interspersed between these tracks about love and life are simpler and purer laments to cartoon characters (‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’), motorcycles (‘Speeding Motorcycle’) and hyperactivity (‘Never Relaxed’) — songs so metaphorically simple and amusing in their lyrics and instrumentation that you can take from them what you will.
For those who want to dip their toes into the orbit of Daniel Johnston Welcome to my World is a heart warming invitation to do so and for those who have already been sold by his talent and his madness this is just another reminder of what makes him so special.
Words: Nikki Dodds