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, 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 Barkley managed to deliver on its debut, St. Elsewhere. And then, on their follow-up album, we not only expect all of that but artistic growth too.

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. And 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, and Danger Mouse mines '60s and '70s Top 40 and soul samples effortlessly while throwing wildly inventive beats into the mix as well ("Blind Mary," "Open Book"). The album maintains an avant-garde sensibility that still works as pop, though. And if you need more than that, I don't know what to tell you.

 
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