Zany jinks anew from Hip-hop’s Awkward Squad
Invite Cee-Lo Green and Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton round at your own peril. Judging by the kleptomaniac tendencies displayed on their first album, St Elsewhere, anything that ain’t nailed down, will be swiped by the pair and put to their own use.
Rock, p-funk, garage, Motown, Northern Soul – the Gnarl’s Barkley method seemed to view the whole of post-’50s popular music as a site fit for plunder.
And what’s wrong with that? It brought us an irresistible and immense LP, after all, and, in ‘Crazy’, a genuine, deathless, modern classic.
The Odd Couple, thankfully, doesn’t see them repent of their ways. If anything, bolstered by Burton’s emergence (through his work with Gorillaz, The Good The Bad and The Queen, and The Rapture) as the go-to producer of the moment, not named Ronson – on their second album their shameless pilfering is even more evident. Take ‘Blind Mary‘, where we get a sweet Four Tops pastiche, or ‘Whatever’, where Green has an exhilarating stab at being Liam Gallagher, or even the single, ‘Run’ which marauds through ‘60s freak-pop like a bull on the set of Ready, Steady Go.
There is, undoubtedly, an element of class-swot to the hyper-literate stylings on display. But, as the beautiful ‘She Knows’ and ‘A Little Better’ prove, there is also something deeply heart-felt and soulful going on. Strip away the frequent delirium and The Odd Couple could be the most death and loneliness-fixated feel-good record of the decade.
Alongside the Timberland/lake axis, Gnarls Barkley are pop music’s great contemporary champions. In fact, listen to the hand-clapping brilliance of a song like ‘Surprise’ and ask yourself: who amongst their peers could possibly match that?
Let’s hope Gnarls Barkley never see the error of their ways. Long may these thieves run free.
Key Track: ‘Surprise’
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