Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Record Review: Gnarls Barkley: The Odd Couple

Cee-lo and Danger Mouse follow up their successful debut album and massively popular single "Crazy."

Rating: 3/5

I don’t know if there’s ever been an artist who’s set themselves up to receive more sophomore backlash than Gnarls Barkley. No matter what they could have done with their follow-up to St. Elsewhere, it all boils down to one simple fact: everyone wants another “Crazy”, and The Odd Couple doesn’t have one.

So, Danger Mouse and Cee-lo had better prepare themselves. This thing is going to get hit hard, by fanboys who stopped caring two years ago, and to a lesser extent, by critics.

Thing is, for a group that set out to do little more than craft a set of likable pop songs, what they have given us isn’t all that terrible. While The Odd Couple won’t be making waves on any year-end lists, there are definitely worse duos with which to be spending your afternoon (Savage Garden, anyone? Actually…). Early highlights ensure that you’ll at least be giving side A several listens. “Going On” sees Cee-lo floating by on a magic carpet ride of funky rhythm, and “Run” is a club bopper that could be mistaken for a trippy Austin Powers outtake.

"Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” might be the best of them, though, effectively capturing the strengths of both producer and singer (effortless, minimalist strings and non-effected vocals in the foreground.) And there are a few gems (“Whatever”, “No Time Soon”) waiting to be found in the murky second half of the album. The most interesting of them, “Blind Mary”, hides all the way back at track eleven.

Still, too often, The Odd Couple misses the adventuring spirit of St. Elsewhere. This is evident right off the bat, as opener “Charity Case” contains only a fourth of the energy of “Go Go Gadget Gospel.” Elsewhere, the darker tracks, such as “Would Be Killer”, are disappointing in comparison to similar tracks off Elsewhere like “Just A Thought” and “St. Elsewhere.” As the album drags towards the later tracks, Cee-lo’s vocals sound more and more phoned in, a crime considering the soulful work he is capable of producing.

After this thing gets slammed, it’s hard to tell where Gnarls will go for their third LP (though Danger Mouse has recently become pals with Beck… Three’s Company, anyone?) What we have for the time being is an album arguably just as realized as St. Elsewhere… but with songs that just aren’t as good.

Does that make you crazy?

-Andrew Stone

Gnarls Barkley - Blind Mary

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Anonymous said...

man, seriously... dead on

Ethan Stevenson said...

i was going to post a comment basically agreeing with andrew, but i realized he already did.

Anonymous said...

wow, this review is amazing and sexy. is the reviewer single because i really want him right now based on his opinions of gnarls barkley

Andrew said...

seriously though, i think my ipod just broke. what am i supposed to do now...?

Anonymous said...

having a broken ipod doesn't make you any less of a man... i still want you so bad