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Gnarls Barkley

St. Elsewhere (Downtown)

Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Sept. 15, 2006

ACL Music Fest Reviews

Gnarls Barkley

St. Elsewhere (Downtown)

Gnarls Barkley's paranoid, inescapable, brooding single "Crazy" conquered the airwaves straightaway and set a record for topping eight (count 'em) different Billboard charts. Not simultaneously, maybe, but The Godfather's wedding scene is too long, too. Gifted journeymen Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse couldn't have meant to tap the zeitgeist so deeply, so effortlessly, right? Maybe, maybe not. "Crazy" is the halfheartedly lobbed dart that hit the bull's-eye, the hastily slung pebble that struck the music-biz Goliath squarely between the eyes, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with a better bassline. Thanks to the rest of St. Elsewhere, it's not their albatross. After writing such an anthem, Gnarls taking themselves too seriously would be all too easy – and suicide. Casual brilliance is the only kind that sticks; try too hard and you're finished. Camouflage your album in clever nods to Hall & Oates ("Smiley Faces"), unassuming hip-hop ("Feng Shui"), heartfelt field-holler ("Boogie Monster"), and a cover of "Gone Daddy Gone" that renders the Violent Femmes obsolete, though, and you're golden. People are so busy having fun they won't notice you've completely changed the rules. St. Elsewhere is a great party album, but nothing revolutionary. Because of "Crazy," it doesn't have to be. (Friday, 4:30pm, AT&T stage)

***.5

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