Gnarls Barkley

The Odd Couple (Atlantic)

We expect a lot from our indie-ethos, crossover pop stars nowadays, even from a duo as inspired as Gnarls Barkley, a.k.a. DJ Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo. We expect guilt-free yet radio-worthy earworms such as "Crazy," plus genuine pathos, groundbreaking production and minimal amounts of filler, all of which GB somehow delivered on its debut, St. Elsewhere. And then, on its follow-up album, we not only expect all of that but also artistic growth.

Not surprisingly, The Odd Couple does not entirely succeed on the basis of these insane standards. 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 the 10th. Cee-Lo's manic-depressive shtick is strangely endearing, while Danger Mouse effortlessly mines Sixties and Seventies Top 40 and soul samples and throws wildly inventive beats into the mix as well ("Blind Mary," "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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