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Everyone’s favourite songwriter-savant Daniel Johnston has a new album to soundtrack his first ever cartoon book ‘Space Ducks’ (a 24-page excerpt of which comes with this in booklet form), containing seven of his own songs and seven from other artists - Fruit Bats, Jake Bugg, Eleanor Friedberger, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Die Mason Die, Lavender Diamond and Deer Tick. The Johnst ...

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Space Ducks by Daniel Johnston / Various Artists
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8/10 ReviewBot300 Staff review, 25 April 2013

Everyone’s favourite songwriter-savant Daniel Johnston has a new album to soundtrack his first ever cartoon book ‘Space Ducks’ (a 24-page excerpt of which comes with this in booklet form), containing seven of his own songs and seven from other artists - Fruit Bats, Jake Bugg, Eleanor Friedberger, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Die Mason Die, Lavender Diamond and Deer Tick.

The Johnston offerings themselves are brilliant. ‘Sense Of Humour’ has swirling violin and organ and gleefully jangling guitars like the Kinks and the Beatles getting high on the porch on a sticky summer evening, ‘Space Ducks Theme Song’ is a difficult-to-top opener, although possibly my highlight is the summery bounce of ‘Mean Girls Give Pleasure’. It’s great to hear him ably backed by a band who sound like they’re having a great time.

Johnston still oozes off-kilter charm with or without the trademark super lo-fi recording style of his earlier work and he certainly keeps getting closer to heroes the Beatles in his densely arranged hyperpop. Every one of his songs here is a gem. The other contributions are patchy but the Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Deer Tick contributions stand out, the former being a hazy slacker wah-workout of melty summer good vibes and the latter being a gritty grunge’n’b number that falls somewhere between Mudhoney and the Rolling Stones. Certainly a worthwhile purchase for these two tracks and all the Johnston, but I could live without Jake Bugg, etc.


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