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Like clockwork (and just in the nick of time), Cee-lo Green and DJ Dangermouse have stepped back onto the scene. And their newest release, “The Odd Couple,” is a breath of fresh air during a stifled era of popular music. Gnarls Barkley’s 13 track record was scheduled to be released worldwide on April 8th, but at the last minute the date was bumped to March 18th (it was released exclusively through iTunes on this date). Regardless of what led to the premature leak (it was potentially due to The Raconteurs’ own trend setting premature release date) the album is just what the doctor ordered.

The success of “Crazy” seems to have placed a subconscious (or, in some cases, blatantly conscious) expectation on the group from fans. But “The Odd Couple” doesn’t want to conform to those presuppositions. This album is it’s own beast. The lyrical content on the is dark. The second track, entitled “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul,” features Cee-lo’s soulful voice singing “Got some bad news this morning, which in turn made my day…how could this be, all this time I’ve lived vicariously, who’s gonna save my soul now?” The group’s single “Run” suggests a sense of frustration and toil with the lyrics “hurry little children, run this way, I have got a beast at bay.” One of the dominant themes of the album is loneliness, and it’s repeated often. But accompanying these honest themes lies an unparalleled musical creativity. Some of the tracks veer toward the Motown and soulful tendencies of the previous album while incorporating electronic and varied instrumentation. Other tracks are much more risky. My personal favorite on the album is “Open Book,” which plays with tribal elements and a powerful chorus.

In a music culture overrun with cliched rap songs with Akon-like hooks, exhaustingly predictable rock songs, a flood of unmemorable indie artists, self important and absorbed artists like Kanye West, and whatever other crap the record industry wants to force on listeners, Gnarls Barkley is the answer. While their latest release may not feature the next record breaking single to hit the UK album charts, “The Odd Couple” proves that there is hope amid the darkness. Creativity is not dead.

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