Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere

Might the immense popularity of Crazy reduce the goodwill towards Gnarls Barkley? At some hazy period during 2005 (late summer? early autumn?) when it first gained "specialist" airplay, it did indeed sound like a great tune. Now, even if you do your best to avoid television and daytime radio, you'll probably still hear it three times a day. To quote Goldie Lookin' Chain: "It's on MTV, you can buy the ringtone. I even heard it played down the old folks home." Most people will surely have had their fill by now.

Some may also stuggle to get over the fact that vocalist Cee-Lo Green sounds remarkably similar to Terence Trent d'Arby. In fact, The Last Time is possibly intended as a homage to Dance Little Sister, both lyrically and hook-wise.

Did I mention hooks? St. Elsewhere has them in abundance, although some tread the fine line between addictive and irritating. Opening track Go-Go Gadget Gospel almost trips over itself in trying to be bonkers. The main sample will stick in your head, but it's quite possible you won't be grateful.

Imagination is in no short supply either. As the artwork suggests, this album is an explosion of ideas - and is over quickly (well before the 40 minute mark). Stylistically, St. Elsewhere moves from conventional Motown-influenced songs (Crazy, Smiley Faces) to totally wigged out stuff reminiscent of Outkast at their most outlandish, Transformer being the most obvious example. Beats range from the relatively soft to the harsher type often employed by DJ Shadow (see Just A Thought). Can't remember the last time you heard a song tackling the thorny subject of necrophilia? Try Necromancer, a moody, Choir-backed number resembling Gorillaz' cartoon horror.

Lest we forget, producer Danger Mouse was also responsible for Demon Days. Like that record, St. Elsewhere has some excellent tracks, but overall it's patchy and slightly disappointing. The hype works against it in more ways than one, yet this is still an undeniably inspired album.



out of 10

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