Like Phil Spector, George Martin, and Brian Eno, Danger Mouse has elevated into a realm that few producers have. He’s created a unique sound for different artists and bands, while managing to become a star in his own right. Dabbling in indie rock, hip-hop, and soul-pop, Danger Mouse has constantly pushed the boundaries of what modern can sound like.
In the past decade, he’s produced and worked with such artists as the Black Keys, Beck, Gorillaz, James Mercer of the Shins, and of course Gnarls Barkley, his own band with Cee Lo Green. And none of these projects have sounded alike, partly because Danger Mouse doesn’t force his own philosophy and ideals onto his collaborators. Rather he finds a particular sound that suits the artist while still blending his own dark soul-pop. Unlike other super producers, Danger Mouse creates a sound that is dense and atmospheric, while still being sparse. Even without Cee Lo’s paranoid lyrics, “Crazy” manages to be dark and foreboding with little instrumentation.
Danger Mouse first gained attention with the The Grey Album (the mash-up between Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album). It should have been a novelty item – let’s face it most of these projects are. Yet, there is a respect and knowledge for both artists that very of these project have. “99 Problems” is given more bite when the screaming guitars and bounding drums of “Helter Sketler” teeter out of control underneath the lyrical rage of Jay-Z. “Moment of Clarity” is even more poignant when it is driven by the opening riff of “Happiness is a Warm Gun”.
While Gnarls Barkley is mostly known for their monster hit “Crazy” (which Rolling Stone named the best song of the decade) the rest of St. Elsewhere is a minor masterpiece of funk, soul-pop, indie rock, and general weirdness. On the surface, Cee Lo’s soulful voice is the driving force behind the album , particularly on “Crazy” where comes off as both sympathetic and slightly insane. But the combination is deceiving it’s not really a dance-album – the production is too sparse for that. And it’s not exactly indie-rock either. Rather Gnarls Barkley is the sound of two men who are not bound by any particular genre – and simply creating music they like.
And that seems to be Danger Mouse’s credo.