(Soundbite of song "Crazy")
Mr. GNARLS BARKLEY: (Singing) I remember when I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that place. Even your emotions had an echo and so much space.
ALISON STEWART, host:
New Music Tuesday is full of familiar faces and names and sounds, but each with a new story to tell. Gnarls Barkley follows up on this huge crossover hit. And an '80s icon and an '80s party band both return with fresh sounds, and the White Stripes front-man takes matters into his own hands.
Mr. BARKLEY: (Singing) You make me crazy.
STEWART: I just had to hear that part. Lizzie Goodman of Blender Magazine is here with us to talk about what's new, what's good, and what we should stay far, far away from. Hi, Lizzie.
Ms. LIZZIE GOODMAN (Editor, Blender Magazine): Hey, there.
STEWART: Nice to see you in the studio.
Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you for having me.
STEWART: I'm also going to encourage people on our twitter.com/bpp folks to tweet as they hear the music and tell us what you think of it along the way. Let's start with Mr. White and company, the Raconteurs. It's a side project of Jack White of the White Stripes, described as a new band of old friends. We'll get into the music in a minute, but I want to talk about Jack White's power play with the record company and journalists. Explain what he did.
Ms. GOODMAN: He released the album with absolutely no lead time. They basically took it, basically, directly from sort of mastering it in the studio and figured out the shortest amount of time it would take to get it to every outlet. So literally, get the vinyl pressed, get the CDs pressed and get them to stores, and they released it. I don't even have an advanced copy. I don't know what to do about this.
Everybody's going to get it before us journalists, so we're all getting it at the same time. And it's just another in a long series of new systems that bands are employing to try and figure out how to deal with the way music is released right now. How to combat leaks, how to get it directly to the fans. Obviously, we saw Radiohead, that was the sort of most famous play so far. But this is Jack White's take on what he would do.
STEWART: He just announced, yep, we're releasing it, and deal with it critics. Fans and journalists getting it at the same time.
Ms. GOODMAN: And the idea in this, is what they are saying, is we want to get our music to our fans as quickly as possible. And we want to keep the perception of the record as pure as possible. So the fans get to decide before they've read anything we critics think about it. They get to say what they think about it first. So he's - that's sort of how they're spinning it. And they're also saying, which I find really interesting, that this is a way they're encouraging people to buy the entire record.
So even though on iTunes it will be available, obviously, to sort of purchase singles. This is another - even though this is a very "new age" way of doing this by saying, we're going to get the album directly to you on digital outlets and everywhere else. It's also sort of old-school because he's saying, but I would also really like it if you guys would buy the whole thing and listen to it all at once because single culture obviously is so dominant now. So it's an interesting combination of old and new philosophies.
STEWARD: Well, let's take a listen. From the Raconteurs' new release, "Consolers of the Lonely." This is "Salute your Solution."
(Soundbite of song "Salute your Solution")
Mr. JACK WHITE: (Singing) People seem to think I got a little situation. So listen to me sister, listen to me maybe you can hear. I think I give a lot of problems my consideration. But not for me, I was sending it to someone else.
Why are the people always (unintelligible). What do I get from it, I don't get anything at all. I'm like a trashcan holding all the information. And I was (unintelligible).
A salute to solution A salute to solution
STEWART: I could be talked into all of this. You know, on their MySpace page, they do give you a little snippet of each track, so you're not just...
Ms. GOODMAN: Teasing you.
STEWART: Yeah, buying blind.
Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, people have heard a little bit. But you know, it's sort of today, everyone gets it everywhere. And that's - you hear this song, and can we also mention just for a second that this is a ridiculously awesome rock band? I mean, it sounds like summer and that's when this record would be coming out. So we're going to get summer early. And who doesn't like that? So thank you Jack, very much.
STEWART: I'm into it. A lot of people may remember the Raconteurs' cover of that Gnarls Barkley song. Let's play that.
(Soundbite of song "Crazy")
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that phase. Even your emotions had an echo in so much space.
STEWART: That's a little audio grease to get us into Gnarls Barkley. They call their new album "The Odd Couple," possibly referring to the band's members. You got kind of stalky, bald Cee-Lo.
Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.
STEWART: Lanky producer Danger Mouse.
Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly. Yeah, and I think it's also referring the fact that they're weird and sort of proudly weird.
Ms. GOODMAN: It's "Crazy" - it was kind of a fluke. I mean, it wasn't a fluke in that it wasn't a great song and they aren't capable of writing great songs. Obviously, they are. But it was a fluke that a band this odd, this sort of distinctive, weird and dark in some ways, managed to write the song of the year that everyone was covering, including the Raconteurs. I mean, they were like 15 on the list of people who did covers of that song.
And I think - that's what I like about this record. Instead of saying, oh, wait, we're a huge pop band now, they sort of, they've released something that is very in keeping with what they are, which is a complicated, very soulful, sort of quirky R&B group. And I'm glad that they stuck to that, as opposed to trying to be sort of overwhelmed by the huge mammoth, almost freakish success of that single.
STEWART: Well let's hear a track from "The Odd Couple." This one's called "Run."
(Soundbite of song "Run.")
Mr. CEE-LO GREEN: (Singing) Yeah, it's still the same. Can't you feel the pain? When the needle hits the vein, Ain't nothing like the real thing.
I've seen it once before, And oh it's something else. Good God.
Cool breeze come on in, Sunshine come on down, These are the teardrops of the clown. Circus is coming to town.
All I'm saying is sometimes I'm more scared of myself. You better Move! I said Move!
Runaway! Runaway! Run children. Run for your life. Runaway! Runaway! Run children. Here it comes, I said run!
STEWART: I feel like they spent some time at a flea market and picked up a whole lot of vinyl...
Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly.
STEWART: And listened to it at all the same time.
Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. That song is incredibly catchy, but it doesn't exactly conjure, like, making out at the roller disco. This is still a weird, cool, bizarre group, and I'm glad they've stuck to their roots in that regard.
STEWART: And I almost said, oh, is it sophomore slump? But Danger Mouse has worked with so many different people.
Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.
STEWART: You can't even call it - them this, it's a second album.
Ms. GOODMAN: Right, we were talking about the Raconteurs as Jack White's side project. Now they're huge, of course, but it's sort of the same. Both Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse have tons of other stuff, certainly on their resume and that they're even still working on. So, this isn't the only - it's not even that Gnarls Barkley is the only thing they have going on.
STEWART: I think Danger Mouse is doing, is he doing Beck's new record?
Ms. GOODMAN: I think I heard that, yeah.
Ms. GOODMAN: So he's got some other projects.
STEWART: Got some other things going on. The new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Madonna is returning next month with a new release called "Hard Candy." The first single drops today. The big question, obviously, how do you stay fresh if it's - your first record came out 25 years ago? The answer? You get all cougar with Justin Timberlake.
Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly.
STEWART: Make sure Timbaland's on speed dial. They all collaborated for this song, "Four Minutes to Save the World." Let's listen.
(Soundbite of "Four Minutes to Save the World")
Come on, boy. I've been waiting for somebody To pick up my stroll.
Mr. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: (Singing) Now don't waste time, Give me desire, Tell me how you wanna roll.
MADONNA: (Singing) I want somebody to speed it up for me then take it down slow. There's enough room for both.
STEWART: All right, after watching Ian Chillag, I know who I'm dancing with at the Christmas party next year.
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEWART: After watching Ian bust it, does the super trio combo work?
Ms. GOODMAN: It does, yeah, this is the best. There's been a lot of sort of bloggy, snarky talk about how Madonna is, how this album isn't so good. What's leaked, people have been sort of not so nice about online. And I think this is the first song I've heard that I'm thinking, oh, well this is a hit, this is definitely a hit. And Justin Timberlake is a genius, and he sounds fantastic, and she sounds fantastic.
And like you were saying, I mean, Madonna's - they way to be Madonna these days is to just use the power play and to call everyone on earth who's good and ask them to come work on your record because they're going to do it you know. And Pharrell's on this record. You've got Timbaland. You know, there's a lot of people working to make this album good. But I have to say that even - when I hear these tracks and even this one, which is going to be a big hit and sounds really good, I go where's "Lucky Star"?
Where's "Holiday" in this song? Where's the simple pop song that you just want to dance around your bedroom to? So, it's sort of like a really fancy designer outfit with 30 different big name designers all on the same person. And you're like, that looks really good, but maybe you just want - I miss the one statement song. So I have to say that.
STEWART: And also there's a little bit of a marketing thing. I believe it's going to be in the new movie, "Get Smart."
Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, and the thing is, it's not a criticism of Madonna. I mean, this is a woman who's certainly earned her cred. It's not as if she has always been sort of a production darling. She knows how she sounds, and she knows what works for her and now she's doing what works for her again, which is to just - to take the fact that she's the biggest pop star in the world and market herself and market her music and get the best people on it. So good for her, but yeah, it is a little bit of a sort of a mammoth song, in the ways that her other songs used to be sort of intimate.
STEWART: And finally, this is a real blast from the past. The B-52s have not put a record out in 16 years. And in that time, has anyone really filled the void they left?
Ms. GOODMAN: No way, and they never will.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. GOODMAN: You know what's fascinating about this is? Who are these B-52s? How dare they come back from - they got to be famous twice already.
STEWART: They sure did.
Ms. GOODMAN: In the first go around, in the second go around, of sort of reclaimed fame where they started out as a total new wave band out of the punk scene, and then sort of were rediscovered as a popular band, "Rock Lobster" and all of that stuff. And now...
STEWART: "Love Shack."
Ms. GOODMAN: And now here they are again. "Love Shack," yeah, exactly. These sort of go-to singles that everyone knows, and now, here they are again, doing what basically none of their peers have been able to do, which is to release an album today that not only sounds exactly like you want a B-52s album to sound like, but it's also fresh. You hear these songs and you're thinking, yeah, this needs to be on the radio right now. It's irreverent. It's quirky, eccentric, and pure pop. And it sounds incredibly fresh, so I bow before their altar as usual.
STEWART: And I love that they always pick a good name. This track is called "Funplex."
(Soundbite of song "Funplex")
B-52s: (Singing) I'm a pleasure seeker, shopping for a new distraction. I'm a pleasure seeker, looking for some platinum action. I'm a pleasure seeker, moving to the music. I'm a pleasure seeker, looking for the real thing.
Chandalabra's in a WonderBra. Chris barn runway, a real draw. Faster pussycat, thrill, thrill. I'm at the mall on a diet pill.
STEWART: I love Fred Schneider!
Ms. GOODMAN: He is so crazy.
STEWART: How do you not love Fred Schneider?
Ms. GOODMAN: I know. And all the - there's been all this talk how the lyrics on this album, "Funplex," are so dirty. Like suddenly he's discovered sex?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. GOODMAN: And it's like, whatever, you discover sex in your 50s, you get there, you write a dirty album. Like do it, you're Fred Schneider, do whatever you want. Everybody's going to love it.
STEWART: That's so funny.
Ms. GOODMAN: So congratulations.
STEWART: I see Kate Pierson because I have a house in Woodstock, and she runs a motel up there.
Ms. GOODMAN: With themed rooms and so on?
STEWART: It looks like you can stay overnight in a B-52s album cover.
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
What does she look like just walking around?
STEWART: She's great looking. That's one thing. They're sort of well-preserved.
Ms. GOODMAN: I know, I don't know how that happened, but all those beehives, maybe they protect you or something.
STEWART: Lizzie Goodman from Blender Magazine. I think it's a four-for-four day with these bands.
Ms. GOODMAN: I know, I can't really - I know we were talking earlier about how maybe I would tell you what not to listen to, but I've got to go thumbs up in every one that we've talked about today.
STEWART: There's enough weeks when....
Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly, we'll get to the part when we say don't ever get anywhere near this album because it's terrible, and it will ruin your life. But that's not today.
STEWART: Not today. Lizzie Goodman from Blender. Thanks for coming in.
Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you so much for having me.
STEWART: Let's check out a little more Gnarls Barkley. This one is called "Blind Mary."
(Soundbite of song "Blind Mary")
Mr. GNARLS BARKLEY: (Singing) I love Mary. But Mary married me. I love Mary.
MARTIN: Hey, that does it for this hour of the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. The BPP is directed ably by Ian Chillag.
STEWART: Our staff includes Dan Pashman, Jacob Ganz, Win Rosenfeld, Angela Ellis, Caitlin Kenney and Nathan Deuel.
MARTIN: Our interns are Elsa Butler, Laura Silver and William Hoffman.
STEWART: Manoli Wetherell is our technical director, assisted by Josh Rogosin.
MARTIN: Tricia McKinney is our editor. Laura Conaway edits our website and our blog.
STEWART: Our senior producer is Matt Martinez. Sharon Hoffman is our executive producer.
MARTIN: My name is Rachel Martin.
STEWART: I'm Alison Stewart. And the BPP is online all the time at npr.org/bryantpark. Thanks for listening to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.