When Danger Mouse became the oh-so-hip producer of the moment in 2004 after mashing up the Beatles and Jay-Z, he could have abandoned the loose, anything-goes beats that made Ghetto Pop Life
with Jemini such a blast and cashed in by repeating the formula. (Weezer's self-titled "Blue Album" mixed with Metallica's self-titled "Black Album", anybody? You know you want to hear Rivers singing about how safe he feels in his garage over the "Nothing Else Matters"? string section!)
Instead, since (sort of) becoming a household name, Danger Mouse has given us the mostly excellent Mouse and the Mask
with MF Doom, production on the better-than-expected Demon Days
and a killer track on personal journalist Sage Francis' A Healthy Distrust.
But he ain't done yet, folks. Now we have St. Elsewhere
, the first release from Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green, a.k.a. Gnarls Barkley, and it's another reason to thank the heavens that DM didn't get too caught up in his own hype.
is a fun-as-hell rollercoaster ride. As he always has, Danger Mouse delivers, but his beats are much more alive than they were on The Mouse and the Mask,
which sounded more like just another MF Doom album than an actual collaboration. Here, Cee-Lo is the front man, and he's in full soul-singing mode, but Danger Mouse seems to be in complete control. After all, do you really think it was the soul machine's idea to cover the Violent Femmes? Of course not, but they do, and it somehow works.
Cee-Lo delivers don't get me wrong. This is far from a one-man show. On tracks such as "Go-Go Gadget Gospel" and "Transformer,"? Green screams and shrieks like only a man of that size really can. And his delivery on "Smiley Faces"? will remind listeners of the good ol' days of Motown, but it doesn't sound at all derivative.
Cee-Lo's lyrics also shine throughout St. Elsewhere
. "The Boogie Monster,"? for instance, is predictable throughout, but ends on a comical note that saves the track from its own seriousness: "I've got a monster in my closet, someone's underneath my bed / Only thing that'll bring me back alive, woman, is some good, good head."
And "Necromancer,"? a tongue-in-cheek ode to necrophilia, features the great line, "She was cool when I met her / But I think I like her better dead."
And then we have "Crazy,"? the single that was No. 1 in the UK from download sales alone. St. Elsewhere
is to The Love Below
what "Crazy"? is to "Hey Ya." Great groove? Check. Catchy hook? Check. So overplayed we'll get tired of it just weeks after worshipping it? Probably! But until then, I can't get enough. And, hell, anything that allows my girlfriend to tolerate hip-hop enough so that I can listen to it withohut her rolling her eyes is a plus.
Overall, St. Elsewhere
is more fun than any album made by a rapper that doesn't rap and a producer that doesn't show off has any right to be. Hard to predict and even harder to put down, it may well go down as the pop album of 2006.
Of course, much like Gnarls Barkley's namesake will always be chastised for never winning an NBA Championship, Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse will likely catch their fair share of grief for not living up to everyone's expectations with St. Elsewhere.
But haters that give it a fair chance will likely come around soon enough.
The Round Mound of Rebound himself would be proud.