With certain tracks, you might kick back and let the sweet, easy-going rhythms wash right over you; with others, you might dance till you drop. Gnarls Barkley’s latest release, “The Odd Couple,” somehow pulls off both angles, providing a sensuous mix of soulful vocals and cool, breezy electronica — alongside some trancey, funk-infused tunes.
Sure, it gets cheesy, but the cheese is half its charm — with songs like “Blind Mary,” Danger Mouse doesn’t hesitate to throw in sounds better suited for arcade games or animated films, as Cee-Lo wails about his love for a blind woman: “She’s my friend, she doesn’t judge me / She has no idea I’m ugly.” Music like this can only take itself so seriously, and maybe that’s what sets Gnarls Barkley apart from trance junkies like RJD2 and Moby. “The Odd Couple” doesn’t force itself on you, doesn’t preach or hammer you down with fat, repetitive electronica. It all makes for a friendly, nothing-to-lose kind of listen, and it’s nice.
Danger Mouse’s ability to put old sounds in a fresh context might be his secret weapon. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but now it’s been revamped, refurbished and spun up with flashy percussion and Cee-Lo’s gospel-inspired vocals. The hand-claps and staccato horns of “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)” hearken back to Issac Hayes, and the whimsy, bluesy guitar-writing on “Going On” is reminiscent of love-song rockers like Santana.
But all together, these elements shine with a certain newness — a groove that’s right at home in our nifty age of anything-goes genre-mixing. “The Odd Couple” is a lush, vibrant album that’s good for both upbeat party-mixes and easy, hangover-friendly Sundays. So sit back and enjoy.