Felix and Oscar have nothing on Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse, as the latter showcase their true eccentricities as Gnarls Barkley on their sophomore album The Odd Couple. Coming off an accomplished debut, the duo questionably resist the urge to focus on anything positively pertaining to success. Instead, the lyrics reveal a story of heartbreak despite production that is populated with the handclaps and cymbals reminiscent of Motown’s merry groups.
Cee-Lo plays the part of brokenhearted easily, thanks to his strained vocals and, at times, off-key medley. His sense of urgency on “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)” is reflected through his sharp tone and quick delivery, while he compares his actions to that of a murderer on “Would Be Killer” with a creepy vocal styling that emphasizes every syllable of his broken words. Danger Mouse’s production plays an important part in the storyline as well, either mirroring Cee-Lo’s pain or ignorantly trying to cover it up: The slow-burning tempo on “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” aches with pain, while the handclaps and light drums of “Going On” hide the denial that Cee-Lo is in. The most interesting song is “Blind Mary,” on which Cee-Lo convinces himself that an uninterested partner should be with him, concluding with a demand of marriage that sounds desperate and forced.
Unfortunately, The Odd Couple does contain a few rough chapters. “Open Book” is unbearable with its screaming chorus over an unparalleled beat. “No Time Soon” delivers slurred words over a monotone drumbeat, and the self-indulgent and whiny “Whatever” becomes grating as it goes along. Gnarls Barkley conclude the story on a positive note though with “A Little Better,” a song that finds Cee-Lo in a better place of acceptance. With a more relaxed voice, listeners can hear the smile on his face as he breathes a sigh of relief and proclaims, “I feel better!” Overall, Gnarls Barkley delivers a conceptual album from beginning to end, showcasing the effects of a broken heart with unabashed creativeness.