May 8, 2006


New cd's: Gnarls Barkley "St. Elsewhere" ((JON PARELES, 5/08/06, NY Times)

Danger Mouse is the sound-collaging producer who plundered the Beatles' white album ("The Beatles") to remix Jay-Z's "Black Album" as "The Grey Album." Cee-Lo Green sang and rapped with the Goodie Mob and has appeared on various projects from the innovative Atlanta hip-hop scene. Together they are Gnarls Barkley, whose debut, "St. Elsewhere," is a manic, twisted soul album that's part nostalgia and part dementia.

Most of the 14 terse tracks are songs, not raps. The recurring theme is madness: not just in the amiable Motown-meets-Philly-soul single "Crazy," but in songs that detail other abnormal mental states ("Who Cares").

Cee-Lo Green has a genuine Southern soul voice as well as a rapper's articulateness, and he riffles through roles on "St. Elsewhere." He boasts, "I transform," as Danger Mouse puts his voice through speed changes; he's a crooner, a belter, a rapper, a comic "boogie monster," a creepy necrophiliac and even a preacher.

Backing him, Danger Mouse scrambles 1960's and 70's soul, treating vintage samples with hip-hop's analytical crispness, and doing some things that are rare in hip-hop, like changing key ("Go-Go Gadget Gospel"). The songs are funny with dark undercurrents ("Storm Coming"), but Danger Mouse's time-warped combinations and rhythmic snap keep them danceable. Then again, cheerfulness might be just one more of the album's delusional states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2006 12:00 AM


Posted by: oj at May 8, 2006 8:49 AM

Danger Mouse? I guess he's not working for MI6 anymore, but where's Penfold? Crikey!

Posted by: Bryan at May 8, 2006 8:56 AM

Thanks for the tip, Orrin. I really like the cover of the Femme's Go Daddy Go.

Posted by: ted welter at May 8, 2006 2:32 PM