St. Elsewhere

Gnarls Barkley

Downtown, 2006

REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler


Hey, watch out for that hype! Careful, man! You damn near knocked it over!

I've kept a close watch on and fed the hype surrounding one of urban music's most dynamic duos, Gnarls Barkley, for some time now; protecting it from the ignorant naysayers and nurturing its promise for close to 30 days now (that's a long time on the rock clock).

Gnarls Barkley shattered records for single sales in the UKā€¦before it was even available in hard copy at the stores. That's enough hype to make anyone curious.

Too bad Danger Mouse of Grey Album and Gorillaz fame and soul mate Cee-Lo of Goodie Mob quasi-fame kind of screwed it up themselves. Following much ballyhoo, mystery and one of the best singles of the decade, St. Elsewhere is not a terrible record, but it isn't great either. That sucks.

The super-collaboration of forward-thinking beat-maker Danger Mouse and retro-reveler Cee-Lo became an overnight sensation overseas with the blindside of simple genius called "Crazy."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It's never really happened before that an A+ producer chooses to work with an exceptional performer for the long haul of 40 minutes. It's even rarer that a single like "Crazy" plops itself into the lap of pop consciousness. Seriously, it's a great song.

That's the pitfall of high anticipation, though. It promises something new, something fresh or progressive, something that will last forever either in the annals of pop history or the mind of the listener. Then it's packaged with 10 other tracks that suck or quasi-suck.

To be fair, St. Elsewhere is a one-off deal from its very foundation; there are no aspirations to make Gnarls a legacy. But, the press attention and proven abilities of the performers at least mandated a legendary fling that doesn't expose itself here.

Energizing opener "Go-Go Gadget Gospel" sticks with the adept retrological adaptation of "Crazy," but few other cuts do. "Smiley Faces" revives the Motown style of R&B that's been missing for about 40 years. But, there is a blatant lack of upbeat numbers like "The Last Time" to buoy snoozers like "The Boogie Monster," "Feng Shui," and "Who Cares."

I'm all for the darkness, sincerity and beauty in the depression explorations of "St. Elsewhere" and "Just A Thought," but the funky promise of said hit single is lacking elsewhere (pun intended, I guess).

At its core, it's a summer record meant to be absorbed specifically in the summer of 2006, when Gnarls Barkley will presumably be touring incessantly and closing with "Crazy." The Violent Femmes cover "Gone Daddy Gone" adds to the fun and shows these two artists' affection for eclecticism.

"Necromancing" is just a disturbing foray into cadaver loving. It may be some kind of statement against date drugging and raping, but that would be too sociological for this rather introspective record. Quite frankly, beyond its bewildering content, it steals from the project as a whole.

St. Elsewhere proves to fall short of greater expectations, but its freak flag-waving spirit gives it enough appeal to be one of the most interesting (read: different) things you'll hear all year. I just expect two geniuses to have a little more cohesion, and fun, than this.

Rating: B-

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© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Downtown, and is used for informational purposes only.