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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gnarls Barkley: Open-heart surgery


By Ben Westhoff

Ten years from now -- or whenever it is we finally come up with a name for the decade we're currently living in (my vote is for "the aughts") -- no musical act will better epitomize the sound of the times than Gnarls Barkley.

With the duo's predilection for genre hopping (hip-hop, R&B, indie rock, gospel), ability to concoct a monster single ("Crazy"), and penchant for promoting itself with pop culture imagery (The Big Lebowski, Napoleon Dynamite), it's surely the most zeitgeist-capturing act around.

Essentially composed of a rapper who sings (Atlanta native Cee-Lo Green) and a mashup specialist who makes breathtakingly original beats (Atlanta/Athens native Danger Mouse), the pair somehow creates touching, soulful music. Buried beneath their technology, gimmicks and nerdy references lie universal truths that seem to reach people in different ways.

Take "Who's Gonna Save My Soul," a weepy lament off the group's sophomore album, The Odd Couple. Green says the song was written in memory of James Brown, but for the recently released video, he wanted something to convey the theme of heartache in general terms. So in the Chris Milk-directed video, a girl breaks up with her boyfriend at a diner. He then proceeds to cut open his chest with a butter knife, pull out his heart and place it on a saucer. The dripping organ then rises and begins to sing Cee-Lo's woeful lyrics into a stalk of broccoli.

Read the rest of this article here.

(Photo courtesy Jeremy & Claire Weiss)

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