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Gnarls Barkley 

The Odd Couple (Atlantic)

Wednesday, Apr 9 2008
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We expect a lot from our indie-ethos crossover pop stars nowadays, even from a duo as inspired as Gnarls Barkley, aka DJ Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo. We expect guilt-free yet radio-worthy earworms like "Crazy," not to mention genuine pathos, ground-breaking production, and minimal amounts of filler, all of which Gnarls somehow managed to deliver on its debut, St. Elsewhere. And then, on the follow-up, we expect artistic growth to boot. On the basis of these lofty standards, The Odd Couple does not entirely succeed. The catchy songs — "Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)," "Going On" — aren't especially introspective, while the introspective songs ("Whatever," "She Knows") lack St. Elsewhere's improvised (or, if you prefer, batshit insane) feel. But, viewed by rational standards, The Odd Couple is a well-crafted, consistent album that will likely sound better on the 100th spin than on the 10th. Cee-Lo's manic-depressive shtick is strangely endearing, while Danger Mouse mines 1960s and '70s Top 40 and soul samples effortlessly and throws wildly inventive beats into the mix on "Blind Mary" and "Open Book." The album maintains an avant-garde sensibility that still works as pop, and if you need more than that, I don't know what to tell you.

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Ben Westhoff

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