Gnarls Barkley

The Odd Couple (Gnarls Barkley album)

It may be presumptuous to assume who plays slovenly Oscar to fastidious Felix in Gnarls Barkley. Still, this Odd Couple has proven surprisingly well-matched. After all, their pairing yielded a Grammy-winning debut, 2006’s St. Elsewhere, and the interplay between avant producer Danger Mouse and rapper/singer/Curtis Mayfield disciple Cee-Lo Green remains a gratifying alchemical achievement.

Alas, there is no genre-smashing standout single à la ”Crazy” here. But The Odd Couple, Gnarls’ dense second album (unexpectedly released three weeks before its originally scheduled April 8 drop date), is a compulsively listenable, if somber, effort. Where Elsewhere was shaded with melancholy and paranoia beneath its party-starter exterior, on Odd, the duo goes all-out apocalyptic. The dolefully paced ”Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” is nearly dirgelike: ”I wonder if I’ll live to grow old now/Getting high because I feel so low down.” Meanwhile, first single ”Run,” with its charging horns and call-and-response vocals, is musically more propulsive but hardly comforting, and neither is the song’s subtitle, ”I’m a Natural Disaster.” Nevertheless, Odd is impeccably produced and impressively layered, an esoteric love letter to both of-the-moment studio trickery and bone-deep vintage soul. It might well let down the dance floor — and for that Gnarls will likely pay in sales — but it’s rare that anything beat-driven reveals this much humanity, no matter how darkly expressed. B+

DOWNLOAD THIS: ”Neighbors”

The Odd Couple (Gnarls Barkley album)
  • Music