Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Devil town

I watched "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" on the plane over Thanksgiving, and it was just awesome. It's a documentary about a musician who seemed to be on his way to great things, but manic-depression almost destroyed him -- coming back from a concert once in a small plane flown by his WWII pilot father, he wrested the keys out of the ignition and threw them out of the plane, leaving his dad to fight the plane into a crash from which they both managed to walk away.

You feel sad for Daniel, he comes across as a great big child, who worked for years at McDonald's and appears to have never had much of a real romantic relationship, having a crush for years on a girl he knew in college, Laurie, who married an undertaker. She's now divorced, and one of the extras on the movie DVD is the two of them reuniting after a concert of his. Thankfully, she comes off as a wonderfully sweet lady, who still has a great fondness for Daniel and seems deserving of all his years of unrequited love and songwriting.

Throughout the movie, while I found it fascinating, I just wasn't clicking with many of Johnston's songs. The lyrics and tunes are almost too simple and his voice is very raw, sometimes squeaky, as if it never changed when he hit puberty. Someone on Amazon says "His voice sounds like a 14-year-old who got into the parents' liquor cabinet," and that's about right.

But at least one or two songs were catchy, so I took a chance on this CD, and yesterday popped it in. Wow. Whoa. It has not been out of my CD player since, and I discovered that my new car has a "repeat track" feature, so you can sit there and make the CD player repeat the same minute-long song over and over and over again, if you are a freak like me. ("Devil Town" was the song I had on constant repeat, but I am also a giant fan of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances" and "Some Things Last a Long Time." Check out the short audio samples on Amazon if you are interested, but don't be surprised if you don't love it first off. Definitely an acquired taste, but one well worth seeking. His songs are kind of the musical equivalent of Lynda Barry, they remember childhood feelings so well and so rawly that we are reminded of our own.

"I was living in a devil town
I didn't know it was a devil town
Oh lord it really brings me down about the devil town

All my friends were vampires
I didn't know they were vampires
It turns out I was a vampire myself in the devil town

I was living in a devil town
I didn't know it was a devil town
Oh lord it really brings me down about the devil town"


Carrie said...

Ooo...Devil Town is a great song. A lot of other artists have done wonderful covers of the song as well that are worth checking out.

Now I am going to rent the movie! Thanks for the reminder, I had forgotten about this one.

gooner71 said...

This is a great song. Don't miss the version by Tony Lucca that's featured on TV's "Friday Night Lights." I can't seem to find a download of it though.