By: Eric Greenwood
Calling Gnarles Barkley hip-hop is a pretty uninformed cop-out. This album is so scattered and diverse that it makes pigeon-holing this unlikely duo, comprised of mash-up sample master Danger Mouse and Goodie Mob crooner Cee-Lo, into any genre subset more than just a little difficult.
With Danger Mouse's eclectic experimentalism, St. Elsewhere sounds like nothing else out there. He paints with specific, finely-tuned brush strokes, incorporating a mish-mash of styles from funk to soul to hip-hop to electro-pop, but he makes sure to avoid convention at every turn, as the loopy Violent Femmes cover "Gone Daddy Gone" attests.
Cee-Lo's soulful wail recalls the vintage '70's smoothness of Al Green of Marvin Gaye, but Danger Mouse makes sure nothing sounds even remotely ordinary with relentless digital burps and crazily neurotic tempo shifts.
Playfulness abounds, especially on the infectious hit "Crazy", but Cee-Lo has his serious moments, too. His voice is inherently melancholic, murmuring mournfully his oft-depressing lyrics over some of the weirdest, most inventive sampling and production in the game.
It might sound off-putting at first, since the styles are so wildly eclectic and unexpected, but each listen reveals depth and texture that allow the hooks plenty of room to breathe.