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Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere

Gnarls Barkley's Inspiration for St. Elsewhere

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Drawn from an 80's sitcom about a crumbling hospital that turned out to be a figment of an autistic child's imagination, St. Elsewhere is shrouded in mystery and makes you wonder if the music is taking place inside your head.

Anywhere But St. Elsewhere

Forget the fact that the album art is reminiscent of The Vines' Winning Days, Gnarls Barkley's debut is a slap in the face of music categorizations. Sound architect Danger Mouse and soul brother Cee-Lo effortlessly demonstrate their range and showcase free-flowing bizarro music throughout St. Elsewhere.

Gospel Hip-Hop Schlock?

A whiff of gospel-cloaked euphoria leaps right out of the speaker to jumpstart the journey to St. Elsewhere, as Cee-Lo chants "I'm freeeeeee......look at me/freedom in hi-fidelity" over a slap-happy DM beat. From the warm display of Marvin Gaye-isms on their breezy "Crazy" to the awe-inspiring interpretation of Violent Femme's "Gone Daddy Gone," the pair constantly tap into their sheer hedonism of infectious ditties. "Smiley Faces" is an insta-classic finger-snapper laced over a riotous racket. And though the jingle hampers on personified upliftment ("Your worries and fears become your friends, and they end up smiling at you"), the rest of St. Elsewhere droops in manic depression and cinematic horror.

Psychedelic Soul?

Intentional or not, Danger Mouse sets his partner up for a gem on "Just A Thought," where the singer casually contemplates suicide. Percussions roll, theatrical keys chime, and jarring rhythms blare simultaneously, while Cee-Lo's raspy wail somehow morphs into a music instrument in itself. It's by far the album's most genre-defying tune. Death, a recurring theme on the album, is revisited on the psychedelic "Necromancer," where Danger crafts the perfect score to a horror flick alongside Cee-Lo's disturbing puns about necrophilia.

A Masterpiece?

Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere © Downtown Records

Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere © Downtown Records

Part of St. Elsewhere's success hinges on the album's brisk run time. Nine out of the fourteen tracks posture underneath the 3-minute mark. Yet, Cee-Lo, Danger Mouse, and their mysterious friend Gnarls Barkley have managed to cram into 37 minutes enough inspiration to last a lifetime. DM and CL are not merely pushing the envelope, they're busting out of it completely. Put St. Elsewhere on your shelf right next to Illmatic and Songs In The key of Life.
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