November 21, 2001

Jad Fair & Daniel Johnston "It's Spooky"

Less is more.

If you have heard of either one of the artists on this album, you know that they are both artists who understand that sometimes you can make intelligent music by being as bare-knuckled as possible. Both Fair and Johnston are creators and innovators of a lo-fi scene that could hardly be imaginable without their presence.

Daniel Johnston is a man of legend; the year that he recorded this album was particularly traumatic and drama-filled, due in part to some mental problems that have plagued him. Johnston's proven, however, that despite his problems, he can create art--beautiful art that is so complexly simple, yet simply complex--in spite of his illness and not, as some would suggest, simply because of his illness. After all, sanity is as much a social concept as it is a medical condition.

The creative summit between Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston, proves nothing short of inspired. Of course, with two like-minded fellows such as these, it only seemed to be a matter of time before a collaboration would happen. The boy-child genius of Johnston meeting with the lo-fi art-damaged Jad Fair sounds like a holy meeting of two gods--and, thankfully, the resutls of this collabroation are more than satisfactory---they're BEAUTIFUL.

If you've never heard either of these two wunderkinds, then you're in for either a shock or a treat. Out of tune guitars, off-beat drums, out of tune vocals, melodies that don't sound exactly melodic, offset by lyrics that seem a bit wrong....typical fare for both artists. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, both artists are at their creative peak on this record. I'm a fan of Johnston's piano playing, and he's got some fine piano and organ work, such as on the lovely "When Love Comes" and "First Day At Work."

Johnston and Fair's lyrics tend to run between the fantastic--what with Frankenstein and Casper and Satan (all common themes in Johnston's own work)--to the utterly mundane. Not unlike the Seinfeld concept of a "show about nothing," some of these songs are "songs about nothing."
From the first day on the job, "first day at work," to people who are a little too much into their jobs "McDonalds on the Brain, " some of these ditties are nothing more than little sketches of daily life. Other songs--such as "Tongues Wag In This Town" will make you shutter with the notion that he's commenting on the sad state of affairs that affect his life--or, more correctly, the fact that he was aware of his own negative persona.

Still, It's Spooky is a good record to start for those who've never heard either artist. The songs on here are some of their best, and both sound extremely happy, jubilent, and are clearly having fun in the studio together. In 1989, when this album was released on 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts, very few people heard it; the underground we know and take for granted today didn't exist, and so this meeting of the minds (as well as the genius and respect of the independent arts world) was virtually unheard....until now. There's a reason why this was reissued; please follow through and check this out for yourself.

--Joseph Kyle

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