Friday, March 21, 2008

Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple

So it's been a while since I've posted here, but I promise I return with goodies. I have been a big fan of Cee-Lo Green since I heard him on Common's "Song for Assata", and I have been a big fan of Danger Mouse since I heard his collabo with MF Doom on Danger Doom and his project, the greatest copyright infringement ever, The Grey Album. So naturally I am a big fan of Gnarls Barkley. The beauty of Gnarls Barkley is the way it seems to be a creative outlet for both artists. You find some of the most personal lyrics off a Gnarls Barkley album. Cee-Lo bears his soul in a way unthinkable to many, and Danger Mouse takes off the mask and plays with sounds most wouldn't dare on a "pop" album. When it all comes together you have, in my opinion, some of the most thought provoking music I've ever heard.

The real story here though is the release date: this album wasn't supposed to be released for another three weeks, but was leaked onto bit torrent so it was rushed to the iTunes store. It was then followed by rushed shipments of the album to brick and mortar stores. They conveniently arrived at the Best Buy I work at today. If you want to cop a physical copy, the Northgate location in Seattle has it. I do have to say the best part about this whole situation was the reason for advancing the release. They said on their blog, "They felt the timing was right to just go for it...With the shifting seasons, furtive romantic entanglements and fierce college basketball rivalries, the latter half of March can be confusing. People need to be soothed and inspired now." They didn't blame the leak for the earlier-than-expected release- they blame basketball and skeazy bitches. That's my style. I would like to let them know that is why I bought the album before downloading it. No screening needed.

The Odd Couple is the second release from the duo and surprisingly sticks to the previous mold they developed and relished in with St. Elsewhere. The mix a solid blend of bouncy upbeat tracks with deep and dark tracks and give themselves plenty of room to play. I have always felt that a well composed album pace, aura, and intention can be derived from the second or third track. I think the first track is used either as some ridiculous intro which many listeners will disregard, or as bait on the hook. The second and third tracks will tell me what exactly I am listening to. It may or may not have been intentional but, they flip-flopped energy on this album. On both albums the first track is definitely bait on the hook. St. Elsewhere's second track is the catchy and fun hit single "Crazy" followed by the dark and thought-bearing "St. Elsewhere". On The Odd Couple track 2 "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?" and is the heavy on the mind, followed by the catchy/upbeat/fast song "Going On". I think this all leads into a deep and sometimes scary journey that is 'The Odd Couple' of Gnarls Barkley.

1) Charity Case
Fun, catchy, good bait, full range of sounds, and I love the synthed female vocals used around the hook.
Favorite lyric - "How are Ya? I think I can help. But I can't help myself."

2) Who's Gonna Save My Soul
Heavy and full sounds, but light on the weight. Doesn't crowd the song with too much audio. Focused on the soulful vocals.
Favorite lyric - "And maybe it’s a little selfish, all I have is the memory, yet I never stopped to wonder, was it possible you were hurtin’ worse than me, still my hunger turns to greed, cause what about what I need"

3) Going On
We are back on that fun, catchy vibe. I love the organ in the background, and everyone loves a song with a hand clap. I think I love the rhythm this track follows the most though. Verse is up high on the energy scale and slows for a line and jumps right back up for the hook. I also enjoy the heavy break at the end. The production is linked with the lyrics and it works very well.
Favorite lyric - "Anyone that needs what they want, and doesn’t want what they need, I want nothing to do with. And to do what I want, and to do what I please, is first of my to-do-list"

4) Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)
Here would be the single and it has that title written all over it. Bouncy, catchy, fun, and it feels very much like non-stop ride. My only gripe is that it feels too short. It won't be as runaway hit as "Crazy", but it will sell records.
Favorite lyric - "You can't win child, we've all tried to. You've been lied to, it's already inside you. Either you run right now, or you best get ready to die"

5) Would Be Killer
Dark, drab, and sinister. Without a doubt the creepiest song from either album. I hear some of the same sounds sampled in "Run". Usually I feel an abrupt change in pace is usually shocking, but in the case of this track it works.
Favorite lyric - "Hurt people, hurt people, this is always how. Oh I've been entered by evil, so someone best love me right now"

6) Open Book
Crazy insane drum beat. Tough to follow because it almost sounds like you are in a drum circle and this is that one guy that can't catch the beat. It works for the sound, but this would be a track I would skip if listening to while walking because I think I would fall over!
Favorite Lyric - "The drumbeat of my heart is tribal, oh the sweet sound of survival, shall serenade this forest for never more"

7) Whatever
Probably the most basic beat on the album with some crazy vocal sounds in the background synths. Cee-Lo is rocking out like whiny little teenager and I have to say it sounds pretty bad ass. An all too true story of life as an outsider child.
Favorite lyric - "I don't have any friends at all, cause I don't have nothing in common with y'all, so who's gonna catch me if I fall"

8) Surprise
Crazy awesome 60/70's backing with a solid rock beat. I think this could be the production highlight for me. This is just a ton of fun to listen to. I know I will be making a fool of myself listening to this on my way to work.
Favorite Lyric - "Now the ending to every story is most enchanting, now whether the ending is heaven of hell, I wear it well. Please forgive me for rambling, I just wanted yall to know that I don't know it all, so when that big ol' smile ends up being just a disguise, don't be surprised"

9) No Time Soon
Very chilled out track- the opening starts with nothing but guitar and flute riffs, then throws in a synth leading up to a heavy drum beat. I find this to be a very pretty song regardless of it's very haunting tone.
Favorite lyric - "This could be one of those days, when we both go our separate ways. Scared for you to be out of my sight"

10) She Knows
Very playful with it's jazz flute running around with rhythmic vocals. Even though it seems as though there are very few sounds being thrown around there is a weird hiss running over the track that makes it feel like more than it is.
Favorite Lyric - "Wouldn't surprise me to see her ghost, she would like me to know she knows, and I'm almost, or I was absolutely nothing before"

11) Blind Mary
Quirky. I really can't think of any other way to describe this. I picture Cee-Lo rocking the fattiest grin and bouncing his head back and forth while singing this because that is exactly what I am doing while listening to it. I want to go skip through a grassy meadow.
Favorite Lyric - "She's my friend, she doesn't judge me. She has no idea I'm ugly. So I've absolutely nothing to hide. Because I'm so much prettier inside"

12) Neighbors
Brings back the haunting vibe but with a revved-up rpm count and brings the sounds in and out. Throws in some bongos and Middle Eastern flutes to mix some things up.
Favorite Lyric - "Now my neighbor likes my clothes, but hasn't seen me with my stars exposed"

13) A Little Better
Very mellow track just screaming we are coming to a close. A very even bass-line carries throughout the whole song and little else thrown in other than the percussion. Easily the most personal song on the album, this ties off the emotional venture we've gone through.
Favorite Lyric - "Ooh it’s probably plain to see, That I got a whole lot of pain in me, And it will always remain in me, So cold it’s a crying shame, Yet here I am trying again, Cause I refuse to die in vein, The circumstances put soul in me, And there ain’t no holding me, I’ve got a heart made of gold in me"

I don't think this is a better album than St. Elsewhere, but it's an accomplishment for the group. Normally I don't focus so much on lyrics but after listening to the album for my first run-through so many of the lyrics caught my ear and I started to realize how much the album was saying. It seemed to be an exercise in creative freedom more than anything else. If it weren't for the last track feeling so much like a testimonial, I wouldn't have thought so much about the project, but after listening to "A Little Better" I thought the album was a little more than I took it. Kind of like how this review ended up being a little more than I thought it would be. I have been working on this thing since 10:00PM and here it is 2:30AM. I feel like this is going to be an album that will grow on me and, in time, will possibly become more of a favorite of mine than St. Elsewhere. Seeing an artist express themselves freely without being constricted is something I enjoy much, and I think this is the best example of that done very well. They aren't holding anything back, and it shows. I think this is a beautiful album and recommend it to all y'all. Go buy it bitches.

**** (4 out of 5 stars)