Originally slated to hit stores on April 8, the second album from the uncategorizable duo Gnarls Barkley hit the web on March 18 and gradually became available in stores from that date onward. An accompanying press release claimed the move was a tactic for pre-empting the distractions of late-March, namely college basketball (what?) and the beginning of Spring. More likely, though, the early release came in reaction to significant internet leaking. And with some buzz generated from MTV’s banning the album’s first video (for ‘Run’) for fears it could cause epileptic seizures, why not strike while the iron is lukewarm? That video, which has yet to cause any seizures, goes from being a mundane retro club dance number into a visual frenzy that should be seen by fans of video art everywhere. It also features Justin Timberlake as a video jockey-within-the-video.
The album itself suffers from acute sophomore blues. Or perhaps its audience does. Gnarls Barkley’s first album, 2006’s St. Elsewhere, came out in that pre-M.I.A. era when blending dissonant musical genres brought on the kind of giddy excitement reserved for taboo-breakers. Two short years later, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo have put together a very similar album that’s just not as satisfying. Some of The Odd Couple’s problems might come from poor sequencing, which is arguably an antiquated skill in the post-album age. Nonetheless, part of St. Elsewhere’s strength was its attention-hijacking five opening songs. Once listeners were through shaking it to the initial onslaught, the album could mellow out without losing their attention.
The Odd Couple, sadly, starts with a couple of downers, and the first fast-paced pop/rock-laced song, ‘Going On’, can’t make up the difference. The Odd Couple is also surprisingly short, with its thirteen tracks totaling less than 40 minutes. At that rate of track turnover, some great songs end before listeners even get into them. That’s the problem with ‘Whatever’, one of the more successful experiments on the album, which lasts just over two minutes. Halfway into the song, apparently, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo just seem to lose interest — which they never did on St. Elsewhere. And neither did we.