The first time I heard this song, I was in a four star motel somewhere in Budapest and I hated myself and where I was. There was nowhere to go because I didn’t speak to the language, and needing to get away from what is undeniably a crazy family at the best of times (not to mention one running on weird time-zone clashes and whatnot), I ventured out into the little garden, whacked on my Ipod and out of nowhere, this came up. At first, I couldn’t believe it was the same duo, well known for blowing the world up by being ultra-deadpan-cool on Crazy now urging me to get on down and dance. Then I realised it was the last track of the album. Most people never get that far, especially nowadays when people don’t buy albums. I certainly hadn’t. I was thrilled, it was like being given the personal key to the other side of Cee-Lo’s psyche (like it was ever locked) and it was pretty awesome.
Everyone knows who Gnarls Barkley are as an outfit but few know them separately. Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton is the dude with the Afro in all the photographs. He’s the bedroom producer who spent his childhood listening to a mix of Portishead and Run-DMC, before branching out on his own. Prior to the Gnarls project, Burton was well known for his collabos with MF Doom (Danger Doom) and his cute little legal battle surrounding copyright. If you’re one of millions who downloaded ‘The Grey Album’, Burton’s piece de resistance, before it was yoked from the Internet, you’ll know how wacky his tastes are and how good he is at expressing them. I mean, not many people can match Jay-Z with The Beatles on the best of days, let alone do it well.
Cee-Lo Green, the forgotten fat dude of hip-hop wasn’t just sitting on his ass either. A well-known member of The Goodie Mob, collaborator with Outkast and solo artist, this guy might look like a prison inmate but he’s actually a big teddy bear. Proof being that in every single ridiculous press shot that he’s done with Burton for Gnarls Barkley (and there’s been loads), he’s in drag. The only other contemporary African-American musician who flaunts that kind of daring attitude is England’s Tricky, but he’s a fair bit smaller…
Despite their pools of talent, it seems like most of the world don’t really ‘get’ Gnarls. Their second album was a relative flop, and to date, they haven’t matched the runaway success of ‘Crazy’ or subsequent Violent Femmes covers (Gone Daddy Gone). I put it down to the fact that while this is a genius pairing, most people are not geniuses, especially in the musical sense. If each CD came with a warning on it similar to those on coffee, ‘Warning – contents hot’, for retards, maybe it’d be a different story. But for now Burton and Green walk the thin line of credibility and downright weirdness, and it certainly keeps things interesting.
This song, however, is straight ahead soul and will probably appeal even to people who watch The Biggest Loser while eating dinner. Powered by Cee-Lo’s phenomenally expressive voice, its still a joy to listen to and reminds me on this Saturday afternoon that no, I haven’t danced in quite a while, but if a gigantic black dude in a dress came up to me and offered, I’d probably have a hard time saying no.
Gnarls Barkley – ‘The Last Time’