The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 8, 2006 -11
A rose by any
By Kimberly Chou
Daily Arts Writer
MUSIC R EVI EW * * n
Hype is just another four-letter word, but for
Gnarls Barkley, this shit is well deserved.
For months now, people - music critics,
BitTorrent-abusers, those who read Pitchfork
religiously, friends of those
who read such media sites
religiously - have been Gnarls
whispering in delirious antic- Barkley
ipation of the Danger Mouse/ St. Elsewhere
Cee-Lo Green collaboration.
Or, at least, eagerly down- Downtown
loading the duo's first single,
"Crazy," a chocolatey, string-based soul num-
ber that climbed its way to No. 1 in the United
Kingdom based on downloads alone (the first
single ever to do so).
An eclectic mix of hip hop, soul, funk and
pop - everything Prince stands for with less
sex and more humor - the debut album St.
Elsewhere is nothing but eclectic, from the
manic "Transformer" to the sly, gravel funk of
Of course, all of those aforementioned
people could have told you everything about
"Crazy," as well as the rest of the hype that's
been swirling around the Danger Mouse/Cee-
Lo pairing, known collectively as Gnarls
Barkley. After all, Danger Mouse is the
matchmaker of bastard pop's star progeny, The
Grey Album, fusing Jay-Z and The Beatles;
most recently, he produced a goofier, but still
tightly mixed "Adult Swim" tribute with MF
Doom. Mr. Green, on the other hand, is one
of the seminal voices of Southern rap, back
when Atlantan hip hop meant heart-threaten-
ing servings of Goodie Mob's Soul Food and
a pre-Hollywood OutKast. Cee-Lo is also a
Danger Mouse now facing lawsuits from The Beatles, Jay-Z, Charles Barkley,
successful solo singer and MC, but is on the
radar as of late for writing and producing
the guiltily intoxicating pop of the Pussycat
Dolls' "Don't Cha"
It's hard to put a finger on Gnarls Barkley.
St. Elsewhere isn't quite hip hop, though both
Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo are best known for
their respective work in the genre. It's not as
if either artist were easily categorized to begin
with, and Gnarls Barkley is a fusing of two
notably eccentric creative processes.
Throughout the album, hints of Danger
Mouse's work with Jemini and a textured
Goodie Mob sound crop up periodically, even
in the opener "Go Go Gadget Gospel," pro-
pelled by a strung-out trumpet refrain, bells
and whistles. The darkly melodic samples
and strange telephone sound effects of "Just
a Thought," Cee-Lo's musings on suicide,
are a reminder that this was produced by the
guy that laid an a capella "What More Can
I Say" over one of George Harrison's most
recognizable guitar lines ("While My Guitar
Cee-Lo's jazz, soul and pop influences
meld together in his oft-conscious lyrics and
vocals, which can dip to a respectable tenor.
But when he sings, more often than not his
voice sounds like Al Green run through a col-
ander: reedy but still emotive. He lets it soar
on the title track over langorious, wah-wah
guitars and plenty of hi-hat, and even when
he raps (albeit infrequently on this record) it's
easy to hear his velvet-tipped syllables as on
the crisp "Feng Shui."
St. Elsewhere boasts, among other strange
musical concoctions, a cover of the Violent
Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone" and the beach-
bright "Smiley Faces," a song based on hand-
claps and tambourines with a shot of '70s
soul funk. "Transformer" is an amalgamation
of the duo's tastes that genuinely fits its title.
The ai-yi-yi chorus, the warped Cee-Lo flows
- as if Danger Mouse ran his voice through a
Yak-Bak - and the tight piccolo motif make
for a knockout track.
The only possible downside to Gnarls Bar-
kley is the sheer volume of musical ingredi-
ents; sometimes, the songs are overwhelmed
by their makeup.
Again, with the potluck of instrumentals,
vocals and production effects, it's obviously
difficult to place a name on the pair's sound.
"I wouldn't call it schizophrenia," Cee-Lo
sings on one of the numbers, not exactly aid-
ing matters. But when St. Elsewhere is this
inventive and entertaining, the search for a
name just doesn't seem that pressing.
By Chris Gaerig
MUSIC R EV I EW kii
Let's face it: Most remixes are absolutely wretched. Often,
some mediocre DJ is trying to make a couple of bucks by put-
ting his own shoddy production behind
the latest, chart-topping Beyonce single. The DFA
There are exceptions, though. The
late DJ Screw created an entire Houston The DFA Remixes:
subculture of remixing with his signa- Chapter One
ture Screwed and Chopped style: slow- DFA
ing the tracks to tortoise speed and often
stringing several songs together to create a woozy, codeine-
buzzed medley.But DJ Screw is one of the few artists that have
done remixes well on a consistent basis.
Enter The DFA. Tim Goldsworthy and James
Murphy run the experimental electronic label DFA
- they've been remixing club hits and signing the
latest electronic artists for the past five years, making
a name for themselves in the indie community. The
DFA Remixes: Chapter One is the first installment
in a series of albums where Murphy and Goldsworthy
put their spin on music's finest (this chapter consists
of tracks by Le Tigre, Gorillaz, Fischerspooner, Hot
Chip and The Chemical Brothers).
What's great about these remixes is that the DFA put
their own insight into tracks they had nothing to do with.
Chapter One is full of cuts that are often completely unrec-
ognizable from the original except for a discreet bass line
or occasional vocal sample.
The DFA remix of the Blues Explosion's "Mars, Arizona"
is a nearly 11-minute dance cut of the two-minute blues track.
It completely abandons the dirty, distorted guitar lines of
the original for a conglomeration of hi-hat taps, a pounding
keyboard and stripped-down bass line. A similar approach is
employed on Le Tigre's "Deception." While DFA prominently
uses the original vocals,they still completely leave behind the
guitar- driven nature of Le Tigre's version.
But they don't always exchange instruments for laptops.
The cover of the Gorillaz's "Dare" takes what was originally a
spastic dance track and slows it to a soaring electro-pop jam.
And while Chapter One is far from perfect, and the DFA
probably won't make as big a splash as DJ Screw, it's refresh-
ing to see a remix album without Beyonc.