Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (CD)

Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere / 2006 Downtown / 14 Tracks / http://www.gnarlsbarkley.com / http://www.downtownrecordings.com / Reviewed 16 July 2006

The United Kingdom picks up on bands well before the United States. Case in point is Gnarls Barkley, the collaboration between Danger Mouse and Cee-lo that was on the top of the charts in the UK for over two months. “Crazy” was the first single and “Smiley Faces” was just released as the second single, but each of the tracks on “St. Elsewhere” are done at the same high quality that the first two singles were cut at. In fact, the band may actually wow more with their non-single tracks than what has been given out to the mass public for consumption.

For example, the eclectic, electronic Latin flair of the opening track to “St. Elsewhere”, “Go-Go Gadget Gospel” will get individuals off of their seats and jittering around the dance floor. In what seems like a track destined for Dance Dance Revolution, “Go-Go Gadget Gospel” spins to a close and allows the dynamic duo to change things up and come in strongly with their “Crazy”. The one thing that is the most impressive strength of Gnarls Barkley is that each of the tracks on “St. Elsewhere” have such a different sound to what has passed and what has yet to pass that they could all conceivably be on their own albums. Sure there are a few things in common that makes “St. Elsewhere” into a cohesive and coherent album, but the amount of differentiation that Gnarls Barkley uses here is amazing. The band manages to completely change the Violent Femmes classic “Gone Daddy Gone” into a track that is purely Gnarls Barkley, while still keeping the quirkiness and the soul of the original.

The band even goes back into the vault to pull out their Arthur Brown and Alice Cooper albums before writing “The Boogie Monster”. The subject material would not normally be serious, but Cee-lo’s vocals and Danger Mouse’s arrangements on this track are deadpan enough to make the track work without anything in the way of a kitsch factor. “Feng Shui” is another in the way of sea changes for Gnarls Barkley; the track is not necessarily coming out of an early nineties vibe, but there is a drum and bass feel to the track that fits well in the genre. Gnarls Barkley come out with an album of music that does not follow logically from track to track, and it is this completely new, discovery-oriented type of album that allows individuals to fully understand the band in a period where most acts try to keep an air of secrecy around them.

Top Tracks: Gone Daddy Gone, Go-Go Gadget Gospel

Rating: 8.0/10

[JMcQ]

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