More than just gimmicky goofballs with a penchant for outlandish costumes, Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse make some of the most deceptively funky songs about maladjusted behaviour and alienation. Their unavoidable 2006 hit, "Crazy" from their brilliant debut disc, "St. Elsewhere," may have sounded like a call to party, but it's really a tension-filled rumination about psychosis.
The duo's equally superb follow-up, "The Odd Couple" doesn't feature a "Crazy"-level supersmash, but they still wed dark emotions with compelling beats. The closest they come to recreating a "Crazy"-like raucous paranoia is "Run (I'm A Natural Disaster)," a '60s mod send up in the vein of Outkast's "Hey Ya," but again with foreboding lyrics: "Run, children, run for your life!" Cee-Lo wails. Meanwhile, "Going On" is another uptempo handclapper that fades out to Cee-Lo's echoing vocals, distorted drum kicks and soaring strings.
The rest of the disc covers a range of melancholy, but never feels like you're emotionally sandbagged. Instead the sombre tones merely sound artful, and transcendent in the disc's best moment. "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" is a slow-burning, soulful lament on which Cee-Lo begins, "Got some bad news this morning/ which in turn made my day." The chilling "Would Be Killer" jump starts with what sounds like a gun being cocked, then continues with Cee-Lo's devilish snarls and Danger Mouse's penchant for moody atmospherics and retro-futuristic funk. And the flute-driven "She Knows" is a cryptic song about dishonesty.
By the disc's end, the brooding moments relent a tad on "A Little Better," a track that talks of mental anguish yet imagines a hopeful outcome, as Cee-Lo delivers the hook: "I feel better, I can smile at it now, I feel better . . ." Through all the murky feelings, "The Odd Couple" indeed has that sentimental effect.
Check out this track: His formidable rapping skills as solo artist and as a member of Atlanta's Goodie MOB notwithstanding, Cee-Lo proves he's a pure soulman at on the goose-bump invoking "Who's Gonna Save My Soul."
""The Odd Couple"
Gnarls Barkley (Atlantic Records)
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