Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
Alex Worsnip 24/04/2006
'Crazy' was the hit, but the two men that constitute Gnarls Barkley have too fine a pedigree for the project to become a one-hit wonder. St. Elsewhere is, as you would expect, a wild, frenetic joyful mash of up-tempo soul, funk and hip-hop, bearing all the hallmarks of classic Danger Mouse work, very much like his album with Jemini 'Ghetto Pop Life', but with sung vocals instead of rapping. The instrumentation is gorgeously organic, forming the perfect template for the slinky vocals of Cee-lo. It's the classy hit 'Crazy' which comes racing out of the blocks first, underpinned by a bouncing rhythm section, sultry string and Cee-lo's pitch-perfect falsetto, a 21st century update of classic soul.
But there's far more in store elsewhere. 'Smiley Faces' is almost as catchy, an upbeat party record jam-packed with hooks, while 'Gone Daddy Gone', an improbable Violent Femmes cover, is the missing link between T-Rex and Funkadelic. The eclecticism comes out with the dark 'Just A Thought', which combines pitch-black soul vocals with DJ Shadow-esque electronica beats and some subtle guitar picking. These are the best tracks, but nothing on here is anything less than well executed and inventive, with the styles covered ranging from smooth R'n'B ('On-Line') to hyped-up techno ('Transformer') and even almost alternative rock ('Necromancer'). Things can get crowded, but most of the time the exuberance overwhelms in a largely positive way, so that it's a consistently excellent album, despite the divergence of the tracks.