Sir Gnarls is Born
What is Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere? It’s DangerDoom with Cee-Lo in place of MF Doom minus the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It is an interesting collaboration that sounds unsure of what it wants to accomplish. An instant hit, its first single “Crazy” has caught on unlike any other song yet this year. That doesn’t make its verse-bridge-chorus structure, super-looped drums and bass, and shrieking chorus everyone’s cup of tea. Is it possible for a single to be played out before the album is even released? Quite frankly, yes.Smiley Faces has a bumping bass line contrasted by a tiny organ sample. Another highly repetitive selection, it nevertheless holds the secret to Gnarls Barkley’s sudden success: producer Danger Mouse’s instinctual sense of timbre. This emerges again on “Feng Shui” as well as “Who Cares,” an unflinching groove about mental illness with lines like “I wouldn’t call it schizophrenia, but I’ll be at least two people today.”
“Just a Thought” hearkens back to Danger Mouse’s Beatles/Jay-Z Grey Album mash-up. However, this time his DJ Shadowesque start-stop drumline buries the vocals, sounding not mashed but smashed with spaghetti-western guitar samples.
“Go Go Gadget Gospel” and “Transformer” are both extremely up-tempo hodgepodges of percussion. Their choruses utilize multiple voice tracks while hand claps, electronic horns, jungle drums and vibes seem jumbled together. However, “Gone Daddy Gone” is a great cover of the Violent Femmes’ original. The rocking guitar-laden chorus is fun, while the cheesy keyboard samples and beats give the track a boost of humor.
In theory, this collaboration has great potential. In reality, St. Elsewhere has its hits and misses.