Album Review: Gnarls Barkley “THE ODD COUPLE”
Written by Mike Dreams (Michael A. Hannah)
What actually prompted me to even go check out the full album was after I ran across a review of it on DJBOOTH.NET and was liking what the reviewer was saying about the album, so I decided to peep it in it’s entirety. This was surprisingly dope! I’ve been a Gnarls fan since 2006, when they first came out with the “Crazy” single and their freshman effort “St. Elsewhere. I dug maybe a handful of tracks from that CD, but on this sophomore effort “The Odd Couple, 95 % of these tracks I am DEFINITELY DIGGING. It’s more mellow in some ways, some more soul is used on here and it’s all around a fresh listening experience. I call this music for the intelligent urban music fans. LOL
The production on this track definitely catches my attention. Of course it carries that old-school 70s vibe that Gnarls Barkley is keen for. It starts out with some classic trance sounding vocals from Cee-Lo. It definitely puts you in that psychedelic soul feeling. The track also contains some minimal female ad-lib and background vocals, which gives it an authentic touch. The introduction track for the CD definitely sets the tone on how the entire album will be. Gnarls continues to have that type of sound and mix that makes you believe this very track that has came out in 2008 could’ve been dropped over 30 years ago and really be a classic already.
Who’s Gonna Save My Soul
This right here is undeniably my favorite track on the album. It presented another soul sound from Gnarls, this time somewhere along the lines of a Bill Withers. It’s definitely a type of joint you would hear on a socially conscious topic based soundtrack from any time, now or the past. The simple, yet deep soul dipped production by Danger Mouse and ?uestLove (The drummer of the hip hop band “The Roots”) is definitely on point. Some mellow guitar strums ride on a bed of a sample of some soul synth keyboard vocals and some live drums.
The track immediately captures you with some electric guitar and belts into a medium tempo clap along rock/soul anthem. They definitely still haven’t left the 70s yet on this track. The live instrumentation on here is on point and the song itself is just appealing to the ear, where you can listen to this consciously or subconsciously and still dig it. The organ gives this a nice upbeat and eclectic feel. I am a little confused around the 2 minute mark when what seems to be some unmixed beat box type bass comes in. It all seems to blend and gives that “out of this world” type of feeling where you sort of get lost in the track that most urban music these days rarely possess.
The highly dance-worthy, addictive first single is already a crowd pleaser. Nothing too much to say bad about this. I think this is an all around banger for alternative music fans and hip hop heads alike. You can’t deny the classic old school hip hop drum loop it contains and can’t seem to not bump your head to it’s appealing tempo. For the most part, the production is fairly simple, and that’s all it needs to be. This definitely shows how Gnarls knows how to easily put together a solid track without under or overcompensating.
This would have to actually be my least favorite joint on the album. The mix of the vocals by Cee-Lo can easily get very annoying to the point where it makes you mad. I know that’s kind of harsh, but a simple adjustment in the panning and equalizing of these vocals would’ve made this song more listenable to me. But then again, that’s just my opinion. I’ve heard older 70s funk/psych joints in the past like this, and apparently there is a fan base out there for them. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. The almost demonic sound of the music that sounds like a backdrop for a junkie scene on “The Wire” or better yet, an old pimp and drug movie from the 1970s (Superfly anyone?) just wasn’t cutting it for me.
You have to stick with this track as it comes in. The lack luster intro may not be too appealing. It’s one of those joints where you don’t catch the rhythm until about the 8th beat of the song. This song definitely grew on me. I like the style and the yelling/chant vocals from Cee-Lo. It definitely sounds like a joint that could’ve made the “300” soundtrack. It’s an awesome war/fighting preparation type joint. I would classify this as world music. The production is very unique and once you begin to comprehend it all, it’s great. The somewhat stumble-like feeling of the beats irks you in the back of your mind, but yet makes you want to continue listening to it. Cee-Lo doesn’t give a whole bunch of vocals here and for the most part keeps it simple.
This is your classic humorous alternative type joint. The content and subject matter sounds like a whiny teenager complaining about how life is so hard at this age. Pretty classic and original. Cee-Lo’s in character vocals are very distinctive and the classic pop-rock sound always serves for a fresh listening experience, so it was interesting to hear it. This track will probably be the only one where you hear an obscenity from Cee-Lo, which was a bit awkward. Overall, the track was okay. By the end of the track and how quickly it ends, you begin to realize that most of all the tracks on this album are between 2.5 and 3.5 minutes in length like radio directed singles usually are.
This track wasn’t bad, but wasn’t anything to jump around about. The album begins to get boring around this track. The track by itself is good, but if you are doing a full listen through, it begins to sound like one of the previous tracks. What I did like about this one was the fact that there was a semi-distant guitar bass strumming in the background that I wish could have been more ambient. I also enjoyed the reverb and panning work of the chorus vocals. As the track rounds it’s last verse, it might become okay to you. The tempo won’t lure you to sleep, but also is not too much of a memorable track.
No Time Soon
If “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” is my favorite, this joint right here has to be a very close (I’m talking a matter of decimals, like .001 or something) second. I’m a sucker for semi-mellow, ballad rock joints. This song definitely has my favorite production on the album. Gnarls finally steps into possibly the late 80s or early 90s with this joint. The vocals and backgrounds serve nicely and the dirty snares on the drum kit add an intriguing sonic sound. This actually is a track that I think should have been longer…at least 4 minutes, if not more. The song can definitely take you away on a contemplative tip. Also, musically, I don’t know if this relates to it at all, but I can’t help of thinking of George Michael when I hear this. No idea why. I just do.
We return to the 70s with a soul/R&B ballad style beat introducing this song. To the ear, this is appealing. Nothing too fancy, just simple vocals, croon style from Cee-Lo. The interesting production with strategically placed inference makes for an eccentric blend. I definitely would run this back for a second listen. The lyrics and vocal performance remind me of Gloria Gaynor in some ways. The track’s sound is almost more like an interlude.
Bring the bongos and keyboard vocal samples out again for this 70s soul trance style joint that sounds like it contains some of the same elements of the group’s debut single from St. Elsewhere “Crazy”. The tempo isn’t annoying. The lyrics are definitely not too clear on most parts, so I’m sure the sole purpose is for an interesting listening experience. This is one of the warmer tracks on the album. It once again sounds like a track from a movie soundtrack during a highly dramatic “walking through the city” type scene, gathering all the thoughts, building to a climax.
A Little Better
This song’s lyrics are very clear and the first time on the album where you might sit up and listen to the positive message and words in the song. The production is pretty simple. I love the simple reverb on the vocals. This joint here is a solid track where the message of the vocals were clearly the main focal point. It was an awesome blend. There is not much more to say about it than that. It’s very solid. It’s sort of like a track you would hear after everything is over. If the previous track “Neighbors” was a building up type track, this is that joint you here at the end of a movie where everything is done and the credits begin to run as you see the main character walk off in the distance. It’s actually funny because at the end of the track, you hear the sound of an old school slide finishing up. Irony eh?
This is a decent track to end the album with. It has a “The Turtles”, Happy Together sort of bounce to it. The raunchy and itchy sounding equalizing of Cee-Lo’s vocals gives this a unique feel. Not too complicated again on here. This track on the Gnarls album is the equivalent to “Go Baby ” on Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool in my eyes. A simple outro track that really isn’t super packed with lyrical content or complicated production.
Overall, aside from the fact that a select few joints on the album could’ve been longer in duration, the album itself was surprisingly awesome. It was more appealing to me than the group’s debut simply because more soul sound was involved in this one and less techno oriented joints. It was a nice blend of everything and shows how truly unique the group is. I stand on the fact that I said this album could have been dropped in the mid 70s and still be a classic. 4/5 stars in my book.