Like most music genres and artistic endeavors, hip hop is best when the pool of influences runs deep and wide. When artists step out of the tired old 70s blaxploitation soundtracks and P-Funk samples they tend to refresh those new influences while enriching their own musical palette. Danger Mouse knows this and plays it for all it’s worth, the result being a strange and compelling landscape over which his soul brother Cee-Lo can howl and croon and maybe even cast the soundtrack of the summer…again.
It wasn’t so long ago that their breakout single “Crazy” took over our minds like an airborne virus. It was everywhere and everyone from your little sister’s best friend to Jack White was humming it. It wasn’t just infectious, it was an infection. Like the common cold, only time could cure it.
Two years later we have the dynamic duo’s follow-up and while there may not be a track quite as dangerous as “Crazy” there are a number of lower grade fevers burning and the right circumstances could certainly result in another Gnarls Barkley plague.
How do you inoculate against a song like “What’s Going On?” There are hints of dancehall beats underpinning an utterly unforgettable melody. Throw in some of those weird musical pathogens that make up Danger Mouse’s particular strain of genius and you’re doomed. Forget it. The CDC can’t help you. Bring out your dead!
Indie kids like to think of themselves as immune to pop music. They’re fucking nuts and Gnarls Barkley is going to KILL them with “Run Children (I’m a Natural Disaster).” I first heard it on an alternative radio station in Portland, Oregon a few weeks ago and spent the next several days trying to track down who sang this vintage call and response holler fest (whatever happened to talkbacks on radio? How are we supposed to go BUY these albums??? [You should tune in to a site called Glorious Noise -Ed.]). The obvious lead-in for indie infection is the slightly annoying “Whatever,” which plays a little too cute with teen angst and is more likely to turn off more sophisticated nihilists. But they’ll be gobsmacked when “Run Children” shakes them silly. You ain’t invincible after all, Cody.
Sure, Cee-Lo’s nasally bellow can sometimes be a bit much and I’m not sure you’ll listen to this album front to back all that often, but there are tracks here that will absolutely leave you shaking your head along with your ass. Prepare thyself for a sick, sick summer.
Gnarls Barkley on the Hype Machine: