Rap duos may be dwindling as of late, but one of the more decorated one-two punches in recent memory is Gnarles Barkley.
Green, who got his start in the industry as a member of Atlanta’s legendary rap group Goodie Mob, was already regarded as one of the greatest musical talents to come out of the South, but hadn’t achieved any mainstream success prior to Gnarls Barkley. Danger Mouse, on the other hand, came to the public’s attention with his brilliant mashup project, The Grey Album, where he paired Jay Z’s The Black Album with instrumentals from the Beatles’ self-titled album (aka The White Album). That notoriety afforded Danger Mouse the opportunity to produce Gorillaz’s sophomore album, Demon Days, as well as a collaborative projects with MF Doom called The Mouse and the Mask, under the name DANGERDOOM.
It was while working on The Mouse and the Mask that Green and Danger Mouse would record one of their first collaborations, a track called “Benzie Box.” But it would be when the two decided to record a joint album of their own that they would see their biggest success of their careers.
The dynamic duo was able to ink a deal with Downtown/Atlantic in the United States and Warners Bros. Records in the United Kingdom off the strength of a batch of demos, which included their smash single, “Crazy.”
Gnarls Barkley would released their debut album, St. Elsewhere, in the U.K. on April 24, 2006, but fans could purchase the digital version of it on iTunes the same day. The CD received a proper U.S. release a later week on May 9.
The collection was a huge success, selling over one million copies in the U.S., and garnering the duo a 2007 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, as well as earning nods for Album of the Year and Record of the Year.
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 debut album St. Elsewhere, we take a look back and selected the five best songs from the LP.
“The Last Time”
St. Elsewhere closes out with the Funkadelic-meets-boom bap track, “The Last Time,” which sees Green asking “When was the last time you danced?” while manuevering in between the medley of sounds molded by Danger Mouse. The festive soundscape incorporates elements of Ian Langley’s “Chicano Chaser” and stands among the more sonically impressive beats on the album. Green shines on the song with the lines, “All work and no play / That’s the way it is, ain’t it? / There’s a rhythm deep inside of you / And you must get reacquainted” urging listeners to get down on the floor. Laying his velvety vocals with finesse, Green scores a winner with “The Last Time” that is a mellow dance floor burner.
“Just a Thought”
“All I want is your understanding / As in the small act of affection / Why is this my life? / Is almost everybody’s question,” sings Green on St. Elsewhere’s somber tune, “Just A Thought.” While much of LP is upbeat, the song features Green pondering the meaning of life, even going as far as admitting to having thoughts of suicide. Lifting elements of Kevin Peek’s “A Touch of Class” for this sonic pastiche of guitars and a crashing beat. Danger Mouse laces the song with the darkest production yet enthralling to hear with repeated listens.
CeeLo and Danger Mouse hit the road on a fantastic voyage on the title-track from the dynamic duo’s debut album. A mix of grit and dust, the beat snatches elements of Trees’ “Geordie,” which Danger Mouse hooks up admirably, leaving CeeLo with the task of bringing it all together with his vocal prowess. And he doesn’t disappoint, crooning “And if it weren’t for you/I’d be without a care/Setting sail to St Elsewhere” before describing his destination and all of its wonders. St. Elsewhere as is high-powered as a whole, but its title-track is arguably among the more riveting cuts included and get our nod of approval.
Eclectic may be a word many use to describe CeeLo’s style, but the cherubic showman goes vintage on “Smiley Faces,” an up-tempo cut driven by snare drums, organ keys, synths, and other sonic trinkets. Lyrics like “What went right? What went wrong?/Was it the story – or was it the song?/Was it overnight – or did it take you long?/Was knowing your weakness what made you strong?” are the work of a superb songwriter and fit snug on the track like a leather glove on a humid day. Danger Mouse leaves the samples at home on this go-round, opting for live-instrumentation, but our complaints of that decision is non-existent from us, as “Smiley Faces” is nothing short of a winner.
This is the track where it all started. Leaked in late-2005, “Crazy” first gained recognition overseas, gradually building into a certified smash record, topping the UK Singles Chart on download sales alone and remained at No. 1 for nine consecutive weeks. While the U.K. caught on to its greatness from the jump, “Crazy” wouldn’t catch fire stateside until 2006, when it shot to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and eventually won CeeLo and Danger Mouse a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2007. Hailed as one of the greatest songs of all-time by a number of reputable critics, “Crazy” is a classic that ensures that Gnarles Barkley will be spoken about for generations to come.