The Odd Couple
Intentional or not, the name of Gnarls Barkley’s sophomore record is a misnomer. Granted, The Odd Couple might come to mind when a tall, skinny light-skinned dude (Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton) and a short, round, black man (Thomas “Cee-lo Green” Callaway) come together to make music and dress-up as fictional characters - but that’s a base assumption best left to debut records and outcomes unknown.
Considering the radio success of 2006’s “Crazy” - a beautiful, hypnotic, but rather subversive single - and accompanying full-length record St. Elsewhere the collaborative chemistry between the established rapper and once-fledgling producer has claimed longevity. The Odd Couple is, at the very least, odd in it’s musicality: pairing Danger Mouse’s ominous basslines and despondent guitars with Cee-lo’s exuberant vocals and mournful, quasi-apocalyptic lyrics.
Like their debut record, The Odd Couple starts off strong and introduces the ostensible thematic conundrum on “Charity Case,” a relatively upbeat track pitting taunting female backing vocals against Cee-lo singing “How are you? I’m not doing so good.” This carries to the frenzied, throwback-styled first single “Run.” The message itself is slightly eerie (“Run children, run for your lives”) but that’s what makes Gnarls Barkley so dope: their willingness to push the bar and guise unconventional themes within the frame of pop music.
Unlike St. Elsewhere, the second album follows through as a whole. It’s in the way the drums in “Open Book” effortlessly transition between off-kilter and discernable, the plaintive clarity of “No Time Soon,” and cirque-pop sensibility of “Blind Mary” (“I love Mary” Cee-lo sings, “Blind Mary, marry me”). Picking a favorite among the lyrically intense, genre-bending layers might seem tough, but it’s hard not to skip back to the haunting second track “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” to hear Cee-lo singing his own elegy.
Although it doesn’t necessarily have an anthemic single, The Odd Couple steers through a musically varied soundscape while staying, unswerving, on a thematically cathartic course making it wholly worthy of repeat listens.—Anupa Mistry