Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

Besides carrying on with their TV show-themed album titles, The Odd Couple perfectly encapsulates Gnarls Barkley, as Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse challenge each other for a strange, substantive new album. While St. Elsewhere tipped the scales towards infectious gospel pop, The Odd Couple is guided more by Green’s lyrics — an amalgam of dark themes and raw hope — delivered in an urgent, impassioned voice and backed by more varied production from Danger Mouse. A murky fog hangs over many songs, such as "Charity Case,” which finds Green’s desperate imagery submerged beneath big, simple beats. Similarly, "Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” is introspective blues, with Cee-Lo channelling Nina Simone fronting a folk-influenced soul group. Maintaining their hit single streak, "Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)” is more manic than "Crazy” and, with its nods to CCR’s "Fortunate Son,” more forebodingly militant. Amidst pure Beatles-esque psych pop ("Whatever”) and beach blanket bops ("Surprise”) there’s truly complex fare like the spazzy drama of "Open Book” and the only really hip-hop-infused track, "A Little Better.” Such songs mix Cee-Lo’s powerful, first-person, fear-and-death reflections with laidback tracks from Danger Mouse for the best moments on the decidedly sombre The Odd Couple. (Downtown)