Nothing ‘Odd’ about this couple

By Gus Bode

Gnarls Barkley

“The Odd Couple”

Release date: March 21, 2008

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Record label: Atlantic Records

http://www.gnarlsbarkley.com

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo duo dubbed Gnarls Barkley made everyone “Crazy” with the 2006 debut, “St. Elsewhere.”

It’d be hard to recreate the effect of that record, in which psychedelic sound took the world by surprise.

“The Odd Couple” isn’t quite as magnificently astounding as the duo’s first album, but the 13 tracks are just as full of soul, lax hip-hop beats and quirky lyrics.

“The Odd Couple” was originally supposed to be released in April, but luckily for fans it hit shelves shortly after a Web leak in mid-March. It might have been strategy for the label, but it’s a treat for the rest of us.

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“Run” was picked as the album’s first single, and it’s not quite able to live up to the legacy of “Crazy” in terms of explosive popularity: It’s not quite as easy to sing along with or dance to, but it’s still an interesting single.

The song blends some James Brown-style soul with hints of early ’60s pop and the shout-style backing vocals used by The Go Team. High-pitched organ synth and even a little egg shaking make an appearance in this song creating an all-out good time.

Some of the other up-beat tracks include another ’60s pop and soul tune, “Surprise”; “She Knows,” with a stomp-clap beat that’s purposely slightly off; “Blind Mary,” a fun, slap-happy pop tune about a woman who doesn’t know how ugly her boyfriend is; and “Whatever.”

The nagging vocals in “Whatever” tell the story of a pretentious, self-centered guy who doesn’t really care about anything. “I don’t have any friends at all ’cause I have nothing in common with y’all” starts the song, followed by the lines, “I don’t have anything to say. I want everything to go my way. Shut up Mom, it is not OK,” making for a good, nabbing joke.

Gnarls Barkley works just as well with slower tracks as the more energetic, faster-paced ones, putting in what needs to be there to make an interesting song. As fun as the fast tracks are, each slower song has its own personality, and no two songs overlap or bleed into each other.

The beats in “Open Book” are varied and out-of-sync and the lyrics follow with a seeming lack of direction. But as strange as it comes off, the song remains serious and determined.

“Would Be Killer, with a slow and deep beat mixed with minimal fills and contemplative vocals about having the ability to be a serial killer, comes off as some sort of scary confessional.

Gnarls Barkley has some nosy “Neighbors,” as well: Cee-Lo’s vocals are dominant and high-pitched on this relaxing ballad.

“The Odd Couple” matches up well with Gnarls Barkley’s debut.

While it struggles to match “St. Elsewhere,” the uniqueness of every one of the group’s songs is an enjoyable spark of creativity.

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