Published July 14, 2006
The last three years we’ve heard nothing but Danger Mouse, first with the Grey Album, then with Gorillaz’ Demon Days, and now with Gnarls Barkley. This year’s release from Danger Mouse is an emotionally bare, somewhat angsty single that sounds like the single that teenagers across the world dream about as they write in their journals. Crazy, Danger Mouse’s collaboration with CeeLo, surpasses even the Gorillaz single Feel Good, Inc, if only because it takes so many more risks.
If you pick up the Gnarls Barkley album, you can hear what happens when you play with sentimentality and stripped down rhythm tracks. While Crazy balances on the razor blade, every other track on St. Elsewhere, and, obviously, even the title itself, fall into the realm of trite and boring. The landmark failure of St. Elsewhere is a cover of the Violent Femmes’ awkward single Gone Daddy Gone. When sung by CeeLo and mixed by Danger Mouse, all the humour and vulnerability is stripped – you get only a chopped up hook and a powerful voice forcibly muffled as it whines through lyrics that feel now like a put on.
Still, St. Elsewhere is a fascinating failure, pointing out Danger Mouse’s background as the man gained fame not in London, but independent music flashpoint Athens, Georgia, and it suggests that as much as he seems to have sold his soul to the devil to dominate the clubs, there is still some genuine, and undeveloped, artistic integrity behind those hooks. If you’re a student of the history of music, grab this album. If you’re angry at Danger Mouse, buy it. If you just want to dance or listen without cringing, you may want to skip it. BC