Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Storm coming (the good kind)

Play it: Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere

The much talked about and anticipated album from hip-hop superduo Gnarls Barkley just snuck in a week early. The song "Crazy" has spent the last few weeks at the top of the charts in the UK, and has gotten more blog time in the past few months then Paris Hilton. Last month it became the first song ever to reach #1 in the UK on downloads alone. Now, normally, UK chart position has little carryover upon it's release here, but I (and a lot of folks) are betting this time it does, and this beautifully twisted album St. Elsewhere will make it to a lot of ears that wouldn't have otherwise been so bent.

Gnarls Barkley is the holy hip-hop union of DJ Danger Mouse (The Grey Album, Gorillaz, Danger Doom) and MC Cee-Lo (Goodie Mob.) Three years ago Danger Mouse called on Cee-Lo to help out on a remix for Ghetto Pop Life (Danger Mouse and Jemini) and pulled Cee aside to play him some tracks that blew his mind (two of those tracks ended up making the album - "Storm Coming" and "Just a Thought.") Instead of rapping, though, Cee-Lo has impressed all by singing, unleashing the persona of an experienced soul singer, not unlike the recently departed Willie Hutch (listen to "Storm Coming" to channel the great Hutch.) "Crazy" was a first take, and much of the rest followed suit... as a result, much of St. Elsewhere feels like a happy accident, free to go where it sees fit. Take the odd choice of covering Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone" - it feels out of place on a hip-hop/soul album like this, but in the context of everything, it somehow doesn't stick out (although, I'd argue it'd make a better b-side, nonetheless.) Besides "Crazy" the songs that stick out are the aforementioned "Storm Coming" (powerful) and the track "Smiley Faces." These all are potentially chart topping singles, whereas the rest of the album is free to wander and try different things.

Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo are already said to be busy finishing a second Gnarls Barkley album, in hopes to be done with it before expectations seep into to the studio. I think that's a wise choice, as St. Elsewhere (thanks to "Crazy") could blow up to something unreal, and keeping it real will guarantee more of the same from the duo, and the same (in this case) is still quite refreshing indeed.

Pitchfork interview with Gnarls Barkley
Number one in the hood, G (Danger Doom)

Song of the summer ("Crazy" video and Ray Lamontagne's cover)

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drake leLane said...

Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere

1. Go-Go Gadget Gospel
2. Crazy
3. St. Elsewhere
4. Gone Daddy Gone
5. Smiley Faces
6. The Boogie Monster
7. Feng Shui
8. Just A Thought
9. Transformer
10. Who Cares?
11. Online
12. Necromancer
13. Storm Coming
14. The Last Time
15. Transformer (Instrumental)
16. The Boogie Monster (Instrumental)

Robert 0f The Radish said...

Thanks Drake! I must admit that Hip-Hop has been taking up more and more of my listening time over the last year. The artform is just getting better and better. This is a great disc!

J Shifty said...

I, too, must thank and then immediately curse you for sending my ears to some of the damn head-stuck-in-est bits since Schmaltzy Junior got me infected with the Backyardigan's Yeti Stomp.

drake leLane said...

Oooh... the Backyardigans is definitely dangerous. YETI YETI YETI!