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It was an accident. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that. It broke the rules of what a hit single should be. The unlikely pairing of Goodie Mob frontman, Cee-Lo, and remixer-turned-super-producer, Danger Mouse was a fluke in today’s age of disposable music. But “Crazy”, coupled with a ridiculously solid debut, did it for Gnarls Barkley, proving that in the end, the cream will truly rise to the top.

With what was supposed to be a one-off project becoming such a platinum success, like Hollywood, the music industry demanded a sequel. But can the mysterious Gnarls Barkley top their now classic debut, St. Elsewhere, or is this another case of the sophomore slump?

Borrowing another classic television show title, the duo returns with The Odd Couple, which couldn’t be a better description for them. Like many bands that achieve critical acclaim with their debut album, Gnarls Barkley now has the freedom to venture outside the lines and go a little deeper, a little more experimental, because now the whole world is listening.

Or not… Things have gotten off to a rough start this time around. Their debut single from this LP, “Run”, neglected to crossover and win a top spot on the charts like “Crazy” did, with it’s high-powered, 60’s psyche-rock sound. Meanwhile, the album’s release date itself was an ultimately confusing mess, after an internet leak shifted the release date up, killing any building momentum.

“Run”, while not as easily accessible as “Crazy” however, ultimately set the tone for the LP. The sounds of the original daisy age are evoked constantly, as songs like “Going On”, “Surprise”, “Whatever”, channel sounds from forty years back, whether soul, folk, or Brit rock. But, Cee-Lo still seems at best when in his element, with the more gospel flavored tracks, such as album opener “Charity Case” or the murky “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul”.

But having the freedom to color outside the lines may not be the best direction for the band, if they wish to replicate the success of their debut. While far from bad, it feels like they go a little too far off the deep end on songs like “Open Book”, “She Knows”, and “Neighbors”, as these songs lack the more structured 16-bar verse and hook formula found on St. Elsewhere. Furthermore first LP was filled with many tightly knit concept songs (“Transformer” or “Necromancer” come to mind); and because this LP is so experimental, it’s concepts are much harder to grasp on to.

Still, this is a soulful record, and respect is due to Gnarls for not simply churning out a few clones of “Crazy” that may have guaranteed them success. With a million fans of St Eleswhere behind them, however, there will be a cult following that see The Odd Couple as sheer brilliance, but its heavy handedness will leave many in the dark. – D.T. Swinga

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