Crazy good music, without the ‘Crazy’-ness

Joe Shearer

Credit: Ron Soltys

Gnarls Barkley

The Odd Couple

Released by: Atlantic Records

Stater Rating (out of five): *****

There’s an underreported war escalating within the music industry between record executives looking for the next big hit and artists striving to execute a great record. Gnarls Barkley clearly chose sides with its second album, which was supposed to hit stores last Tuesday. Many retailers didn’t receive quantity until a few days later.

It’s been an interesting past month for the duo, comprised of Thomas “Cee-lo” Calloway and Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton. After The Odd Couple leaked online before its scheduled April street date, Cee-lo and Danger Mouse decided to bump up the release in response to a so-so reception.

One of the things you might have heard about this disc is its lack of another “Crazy,” the song that shot the group to international fame. Stop. Go back to the beginning, and read the first paragraph.

People, this is what album making is all about! Who cares if there’s no automatic hit-single? This is a genre-defying masterpiece even more daring — and more consistently catchy than St. Elsewhere, employing everything from classic soul to surf rock.

This is the part where we discuss tracks, and maybe you pick out one or two that sound interesting, download them and that’s that. Not this time. To make a point, nothing will be singled out or identified; you can find that in another review if you prefer.

Most every song is unique in its own way. Gone is what few traces of rap were on the previous effort, but in return, we’re treated to a little surf, a pinch of ’80s punk on one number and a healthy dose of psychedelic soul . or is it rock . or electronica? That’s the neat thing about this little experiment. It doesn’t lend itself to simple labels. There’s even an acoustic guitar on one track, a nice non-electronic surprise.

It’s not only the music; the songwriting is also quite thoughtful. Cee-lo — who shows his range vocally song to song — frequents the underlying theme of loneliness and alienation. The emotion really kicks in during the second half of the album, but there’s never a point when the passion is absent in the 39-minute runtime.

While some parts are better than others, it’s the sum of those parts making this endeavor worth more than a hit-and-run download. “Crazy” was your first love; move past that and meet The Odd Couple, a match made in heaven.

Contact all reporter Joe Shearer at [email protected].