Some two years after your Grandma was crooning “Crazy” while making Sunday dinner, it became substantially less cool to dig their genre-bending compositions. The elitist’s will tell you Danger Mouse was so much better when he was rocking with Jemini and Cee Lo needs more cell therapy. While I wholeheartedly miss Mr. Green threatening peeping Tom’s and DM on that “Omega Supreme,” it doesn’t make their union any less than what it is. And what it is, is great, catchy music.
St. Elsewhere sounded like an experiment, one that worked and caught the lightning in the bottle. The Odd Couple is no experiment, they’ve taken the formula to the lab and really let it cook. The high points may not be as high as their debut, but the low points aren’t as low and there is a definite sense of what they are doing this time around. Don’t get it twisted though, what it sounds like they’re doing is actually much different than what they are doing. The LP often sounds like a big booty girl calling you to the dance floor, but all the while this fine lady is paranoid, alienated and downright moody. Look no further than the lead-single “Run,” it may sound like a wacky 60’s romp but it’s also telling children to run for their lives.
Unlike “Crazy,” which was the sureshot single on St. Elsewhere, one listen to The Odd Couple and you’ll find a few tracks that would have seemed a better jump off point. Be it the funky bass lines of “Charity Case,” the hand claps of loner-anthem “Going On” or the album’s most joyous track in “Blind Mary.” Even “Whatever,” what with its teenage angst appeal, would surely be in heavy rotation on any pop radio station. It isn’t just about mass appeal though, there is plenty of, you know, art. The uber soulful “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” marks one of the finest performances of Cee Lo‘s career and is just enthralling from front to back. Another excellent track in “Surprise” is full of the aforementioned gloomy subject matter; “there are hills and mountains between us/always something below us/…/oh but be ready to sacrifice/if you love him you should tell him twice/because when everything that’s alive ultimately dies/oh lord, don’t be surprised.”
The only real chinks in the armor come with “Open Book” and “She Knows.” The former is actually a pretty cool song, but it’s jungle backdrop sticks out like a sore thumb in the scheme of the album. “She Knows” just comes deep in the album and doesn’t really hold your attention. Thankfully, The Odd Couple finishes incredibly strong with “Blind Mary,” the envy-driven “Neighbors” and the reflective “A Little Better.” In terms of lyrical content, “A Little Better” probably trumps anything Cee Lo has done under the Gnarls Barkley banner.
With top 40 radio and MTV playing nothing but music emptier than a cookie jar at Fat Joe‘s house, it is nice to have an album with pop sensibilities but also with real substance. This is really just a tribute to the talents of Cee Lo and Danger Mouse. You stick two people that good together and great things are bound to happen, even if they are an odd couple.