Who or what is Gnarls Barkley?
If you look at the Gnarls Barkley website, you’ll get a fantastical story about a guy dressed like H.R. Pufnstuf. If you look at the MySpace page, you’ll see that it’s DJ Dangermouse (Brian Burton) and Cee-Lo Green (Thomas Calloway). Dangermouse received recognition for The Grey Album, his mash mix of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album. He also worked with rapper MF Doom and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim to release last year’s DangerDoom one of 2005’s best albums (in my opinion). He also produced Gorillaz’s Demon Days.
Cee-Lo has had a long career, not only as part of rap group Goodie Mob, but as a solo artist as well. He’s worked with OutKast, Carlos Santana, Timbaland, and Common (to name a few) as well as being the songwriter and producer of the Pussycat Dolls hit single “Don’t Cha.”
Together, Dangermouse and Cee-Lo bring an eclectic mix of funk, pop, rock, and hip hop, creating a style of music unique as it is reminiscent. Their first single “Crazy” has already made history by having a number one hit based entirely on downloads. It’s also already been covered by blues singer Ray LaMontagne. Gnarls Barkley preformed recently at Cochella and has had a huge online following. Now the debut album St. Elsewhere is being released (May 9th).
The album is like R&B on acid. It’s trippy and fun, but has its serious moments as well. Aside from “Crazy” (still one of the best tracks), there are various songs that will make the listener want to get up and shake what their momma gave them. For example, “Go-Go Gadget Gospel” opens the album with a trumpet blast. The song sounds like what would happen if you put a church choir in the same room with a high school marching band and told them to duke it out. “Gone Daddy Gone,” a cover of the Violent Femmes song, while not the strongest track overall, has a head bop/pop sound that is hard to resist (unless you’re maybe a die hard Femmes fan). “St. Elsewhere” is a mellow and melodramatic love song that recalls the sound of old school R&B. “The Boogie Monster,” a dark tune both musically and lyrically, tells a story of someone suffering from paranoia or someone who has a lot of dark secrets. It sounds very similar to what Dangermouse did on the Gorillaz album. With a line like “It’s deep how you can be so shallow…” it is hard not to like “Who Cares?” — a sort of a baby-you-missed-out kind of song. And of course, no album is complete with out a song about necrophilia…i.e. “Necromancer.”
St. Elsewhere in its entirety is actually a very dark album. Looking past the pop sound there are sinister lyrics and morbid overtones, leaving the interpretations of their meanings up to the listener. It’s clear from their music that Dangermouse and Cee-Lo work well together. And after so much hype over “Crazy” (before it was even released no less), it’s good to see that their hard work is paying off. They’ve made a mark that says “Get ready! Gnarls Barkley is here to stay.”