Hey, look what leaked all over the internets, the new album from Gnarls Barkley. You remember them, they’re the super-producer/mega-singer duo who got the highest score ever on that Hit Formula thing in the New Yorker? Well, they’re back, and while their new album is, you know, enjoyable enough, with songs and notes and everything, I’m not sure they’d want to run it through the hit detector again: the score might be pretty disappointing.
The album’s touchstone seems to be OutKast’s breakthrough 2003 hit “Hey Ya!” whose jungle-like double-time beat propels six of Odd Couple‘s 13 tracks, including current single “Run,” whose strobey video (see below) was apparently sent back for recuts by MTV Europe for being a little too seizure-y. This double-time beat fascinates Danger Mouse, and gave us some of the more awkward tracks on 2006’s St. Elsewhere (see “Go Go Gadget Gospel”). It’s kind of too bad, because they seem to be much more comfortable when they chill out a little. While the leaked version seems to have some titles wrong, track two, “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul,” with its shuffly beat and acoustic guitar, has a lush, late-night sound and gives Cee-Lo a little room to breathe, and track 12, “Neighbors,” has a cinematic sweep. This may be a more traditional hip-hop sound, but they just do it better.
It’s understandable that nothing on here would have the impact of “Crazy,” a once-in-a-lifetime song whose wistful strangeness still sounds as hauntingly beautiful as the first day I heard it. But there’s also nothing on Odd Couple as hypnotic as “Who Cares” or as compelling as “Simley Faces,” St. Elsewhere‘s next-best tracks, both clever and melancholy reimaginings of classic soul. It’s as if they reacted to the success of “Crazy” by refusing to write a song you could even sing along to, and that’s too bad.
Gnarls Barkley’s The Odd Couple is out for real on Downtown/Atlantic on April 8th.
Gnarls Barkley – “Run” (the epileptics-beware part is towards the end)