Daniel Johnston, Hi How Are You

Jeff Feuerzeig

By Jeff Feuerzeig

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
An early highlight from the vaults of one of America’s favorite imbalanced junk-folkies.

Recorded in 1985 during a nervous breakdown, Hi. How Are You? succeeds on multiple levels: as concept album, performance art piece and motivational cassette. Daniel conceived it as his Meet the Beatles point-of-entry record and made sure while working at a McDonald's in Austin, Texas, that every pretty girl and hip-looking musician received one as a surprise in their sack of hamburger and fries, thus inventing the true Happy Meal. The use of an actual water faucet on "Running Water," the ice cream wrapper-inspired "Walking the Cow," three "Joe the Boxer" songs — the gorgeous "Hey Joe," "Keep Punching Joe," and "No More Pushing Joe Around" — collide in a genre-hopping rollercoaster ride of madness. Hi. How Are You? also features the achingly moving Billie Holiday/Jerry Lewis impersonations that Daniel delivers over a jazz record as "Desperate Man Blues," making a strong argument that more artists should wait for severe emotional duress before pressing the record button.