Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #76 Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
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#76 Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green, aka Gnarls Barkley, broke the traditional industry record release mold with St. Elsewhere. Rather than focus resources on a "release date", Gnarls leaked a St. Elsewhere EP that included the pop classic "Crazy", months before the scheduled release date. The leak strategy was considered a risky and unorthodox way of pushing an album all the way back in 2006. But Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), the production end of the duo, was no stranger to such controversial moves.
Several years before, he had found himself suddenly in the spotlight when his mash-up of the Beatles White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album found its way into the public sphere. (It was never intended for release.) The album was downloaded a gazillion times and even managed to inspire the ever vigil attention of the mainstream press. It would inspire a different sort of attention from the industry's litigation arm, the RIAA. The RIAA was quick to condemn Danger, but - as usual - downloads continued unabated.
Brain went on to produce work for the Gorillaz and The Rapture, finally hooking up with Cee Lo around 2004, previously a part of Goodie Mob. St. Elsewhere would bring a new level of fame for both artists. The album was full of great pop tracks, including a remake of the Violent Femme's song, "Gone Daddy Gone" and "Crazy". Sick of it or not, the catchy production and Cee-Lo's weighty lyrical treatments make "Crazy" one of the better tracks to ever appear on the pop charts. "Crazy" was the first single to ever top the UK singles chart purely on download sales. It also spent a record 9 weeks at number there, and the album itself went platinum in the US.
The group would usually only appear in costumes during this period, a factor that offers an allegorical explanation for the music on St. Elsewhere. Each song on this album seems to wear a straight-forward, pop-oriented disguise, only revealing its deep musical richness and various subtle meanings over numerous listens.