[CD Review] Gnarls Barkley, 'The Odd Couple' (Atlantic)

We expect a lot from our indie-ethos crossover pop stars nowadays, even from a duo as inspired as Gnarls Barkley, a.k.a. DJ Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo. We expect guilt-free-yet-radio-worthy earworms such as “Crazy,” as well as genuine pathos, ground-breaking production and minimal amounts of filler, all of which Gnarls Barkley somehow managed to deliver on their debut, St. Elsewhere. And then, on their follow-up album, we not only expect all of that, but artistic growth, too.

Not surprisingly, The Odd Couple does not entirely succeed on the basis of these standards. The catchy songs (“Run [I’m a Natural Disaster],” “Going On”) aren’t especially introspective, while the introspective songs (“Whatever,” “She Knows”) lack St. Elsewhere’s improvised (or, if you prefer, batshit insane) feel. But, viewed by rational standards, The Odd Couple is a well-crafted, consistent album that will likely sound better on the 100th spin than the 10th. Cee-Lo’s manic-depressive shtick is strangely endearing, while Danger Mouse mines ’60s and ’70s Top 40 and soul samples effortlessly and throws wildly inventive beats into the mix as well (“Blind Mary,” “Open Book”). The album maintains an avant-garde sensibility that still works as pop, and if you need more than that, I don’t know what to tell you.

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