Danger Doom, The Mouse and the Mask (2005)
Danger Doom’s The Mouse and the Mask pays homage to Adult Swim, the late-night block of programming shown on US cable channel Cartoon Network that is nominally geared towards adults. The most popular shows on Adult Swim – Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a comedy about anthropomorphic fast-food novelties (a hamburger, a milkshake cup and a bag of fries); and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, a bizarre talk show hosted by 60s cartoon hero Space Ghost – deal in irreverence, spewing jokes about sex, drugs, random “cartoon violence,” and toilet humor. Sometimes, the shows are hilarious; other times, they’re just obnoxious. It’s perfect material for MF DOOM, the hardest-working man in hip-hop, and producer Danger Mouse, who recently led a successful revival of another elaborate cartoon project, Gorillaz. Impressively, Doom really seems to get into the spirit of the thing. “Dude, leave your girl around this man whore and she’s too screwed/Just in case she’s in a what you want to do mood/Bring your plate to the metal face and get your food chewed,” he raps improbably on “No Names (Black Debbie).” On other albums (particularly the Viktor Vaughn albums), DOOM has burnished a reputation for dark narratives that lead down unexpected paths, but The Mouse and the Mask finds him at his most discombobulated, filleting images that change every four bars, and oftentimes less. As the musical composer for DOOM’s verbal illustrations, Danger Mouse virtually copies Madlib’s template from last year’s DOOM-Madlib affair Madvillainy. It’s not entirely original, but it’s functional. He achieves some highlights, from a wah-wah guitar lick shifting from mono to stereo on “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” to the heroic theme ballast of “The Mask” with guest Ghostface Killah. Tailing Danger Doom are Space Ghost (George Lowe), Harvey Birdman (Gary Cole), and, most frequently, Aqua Force Hunger Team’s Master Shake (Dana Snyder), Frylock (Carey Means), and Meatwad (Dave Willis) from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Their manic interpolations turn The Mouse and the Mask into a frenetic comedy that honors its frat-boy origins. Other guests include Talib Kweli on “Old School” and Cee-Lo on “Benzie Box.” The latter track cemented Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo’s friendship, and the duo went on to create the best-selling pop-soul project Gnarls Barkley. Epitaph.