The shocking left-field success of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" stands as a testament to a hit song's awesome power to worm its way deep into the world's consciousness and overcome minor setbacks like a crippling industry-wide recession and the seemingly imminent death of major-label hip-hop. With a single knockout, world-conquering smash, Cee-Lo Green went from perennial commercial underachiever to newly minted overachiever. Green was born a star, but it took "Crazy"'s historic worldwide success to make it official for the bean-counters and chart-watchers.
Now the unlikely duo of Green and Danger Mouse are back with the kaleidoscopic, casually continental The Odd Couple, and while fans and radio programmers looking for another instant smash like "Crazy" might be disappointed, the disc's hit-to-miss ratio is actually higher than its predecessor's: These pop-art pranksters deliver at least three infectious delights for every arty misfire. Cee-Lo's rasp is immediately identifiable, but as on St. Elsewhere, he sounds like a different band from a different bygone era is backing him on damn near every track. The lead single, "Run," sounds like the theme song to a groovy '60s spy comedy, while "Blind Mary" embraces the trippy, carnival-esque psychedelia of Sgt. Pepper's-era Beatles. Where Gnarls Barkley once felt like an inspired lark, giddy one-off, or neat little experiment, it now feels unmistakably like a vital, enduring partnership. The Odd Couple is the exhilarating sound of the band geeks and theater weirdoes taking over the school.