Two years ago, things looked pretty bleek for Cee-Lo Green, an ex-member of Goodie Mob, who was only getting older. The former Goodie Mob frontman released two critically praised solo LP’s, Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections and Cee Lo Green Is The Soul Machine, showing steady consecutive musical growth. Problem was, Cee-Lo was such an original artist, that his former label had no idea how to market him. Let’s face it ? he wasn’t 19, ripped, and rapping about guns and drugs. Imagine that, an industry that can’t market something original yet has no problem selling the same thing over and over again.
And we buy it right up.
Luckily for him, Cee-Lo said “fuck hip-hop”, packed up his bags and took his act to a new land. Call it St. Elsewhere, a place that welcomes originality and experimentation. Here, he met up with newly crowned super-producer, DJ Danger Mouse, who just helped Damon Albarn reinvent Gorillaz, not to mention took MF Doom mainstream via Adult Swim with Danger Doom. Together they formed Gnarls Barkely, letting their creative juices run wild, showing that it is possible to go against the grain and still see success.
The success spoken of, is that of the album’s ridiculously catchy lead single, “Crazy”, which is already proving to be this year’s answer to 2005′s “Feel Good Inc” by Gorillaz, in a sort of a moody, depressing sort of way, if that makes any sense. Danger Mouse’s production lets Cee-Lo really “explore the studio space”, so to speak, experimenting with several different styles and sounds. The album is jumped off with “Go Go Gadget Gospel”, which finds Cee-Lo reaching into his obvious gospel roots; but is juxtaposed later with a complete curveball; a well done cover of the Violent Femmes “Gone Daddy Gone”.
While Cee-Lo’s rap vocals have taken a back seat to his vocal chops, many of the album’s best moments come from his straightforward sung lyrics, like on the lead single, “Crazy”. Songs like the swingy “Smiley Faces”, the soothing and soulful “Who Cares”, and the dirty drummed “Just A Thought” will have you forgetting that Cee-Lo was ever a rapper in the first place, (but some of you didn’t know that anyway).
Danger’s tracks bring out the best in Cee-Lo, letting his styles run wild. “Transformer” finds the duo at their most daring, where DM’s schizophrenic beat only challenges Cee-Lo to take his lyrical style to a higher level, hitting listeners with a barrage of styles and vocal effects – beautiful chemistry here. Only in St. Elsewhere, could you find Cee-Lo singing about creepy things like “The Boogie Monster”, or even darker, the lyrically-brilliant-yet-equally-disturbing “Necromancer”. But on a LaFace album? Forget about it.
Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo have done it again, for the first time, together. The two bring out the best in one another, perhaps rising to the pinnacle of their respective careers up unto this point. Gnarls Barkely’s remarkably consistent St. Elsewhere might not strike your fancy at first, but consecutive listens will have you singing right along. What they say is true - Gnarls Barkley is crazy.
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