Howdy, Danger

The blueprints of a perfectly goofy musical collaboration

Maybe you watch Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, and maybe you don't. Perhaps you caught the surreal stage performance of the animated band, Gorillaz, at the Grammy Awards this last February. You might even be one of those, ahem, rebels that have a copy of "The Grey Album." If you're in the third category, don't tell me. I don't want that kind of heat.

Regardless of whether or not you fit in any of the categories above, you've probably heard some of the artistic stylings of one Brian Joseph Burton, aka Danger Mouse. And even if you have no idea what Aqua Teen Hunger Force is, or what in the name of Pete Best would inspire someone to mash The Beatles and Jay-Z, you would still probably dig something that Danger Mouse has done.

As a DJ, Danger Mouse has a distinct meridian line in his career. Up to this line, Danger Mouse was a well-respected rising star in the world of spin. Past this line, the name "Danger Mouse" is almost always followed by the phrase, "best-known for his controversial and brilliant 'Grey Album.'" "The Grey Album" took lyrics from rapper Jay-Z's "Black Album" and laid them over instruments and beats hewn from the very living rock of The Beatles' "White Album." It's good. Really good. Way better than at least one of its component parts (okay,
just one of them). But "Grey Albums" do not a career make, and Danger has done much more to earn his stripes.

Stepping through doors opened by his underground smash hit, Danger produced "Demon Days," the sophmore album from the world's number one simulated band, Gorillaz. Where "The Grey Album" earned him cease-and-desist orders from EMI, "Demon Days" earned Danger a Grammy nomination. Poetically, Gorillaz are signed under the EMI label.

Danger piled synchronicity upon synchronicity with his next major project: the ode to Cartoon Network known as "The Mouse and the Mask." Danger spun the beats for hip-hopper MF DOOM, who spit the lyrics from behind his trademark gladiator mask. Doom was not new to the music scene, but in addition to his previous albums, he had done some guest work on "Demon Days." Inspiration for the tracks on "The Mouse and the Mask" was provided by the Adult Swim line-up on Cartoon Network. I couldn't possibly explain it to you with any more clarity. You just have to listen. Doom is infectious.

So we have a legally-dubious mash-up album, a production credit for a band of cartoon characters, and a collaboration with a rapper in a mask inspired by slightly raunchy animation. What else woul be left to do except release a 70's soul-inflected record with a B-grade rapper who sings a large percentage of the tracks in a gospelly falsetto?

"St. Elsewhere," released under the name Gnarls Barkley, is just such a creation. The lead-off single, "Crazy," was the first song to go number 1 in the UK based solely on Internet sales and downloads. It is downright omnipresent, and has gone a long way towards redeeming Britain for having inflicted the Axel F Crazy Frog "song" upon the world.

Danger Mouse's resume reads like it was randomly generated out of the encyclopedia of hip hop and rap. His work is consciously eclectic, and massively listenable. MF DOOM shouts out to Danger in "A.T.H.F.," saying "Howdy, Danger--much obliged for the beat god." Listening to the full complexity of Danger Mouse's work, you truly cannot help but agree.