THE MOUSE AND THE MASK

Danger Doom

Call it a meeting of misfits.

First, there's MF Doom. Fifteen years ago, he was Zevlove X, a member of the cheery rap trio KMD. After personal tragedy and major-label treachery, Zev dropped out, reemerging years later as the character Metal Face Doom, an underground favorite, rapping ever more intricate verses from behind an actual mask of steel.

Then there's Danger Mouse, the production genius who mashed music from the Beatles' "White Album" with rhymes from Jay-Z's "The Black Album," to birth -- what else? -- "The Grey Album." Although critics lauded him for his daring sacrilege, Danger Mouse had committed copyright blasphemy. He was banned from marketing his creation.

Finally, there's "Adult Swim," the nightly collection of arcane animation on the Cartoon Network that's brilliant even when it's boring.

Doom and Danger -- who style themselves much like real-life cartoons -- share an affinity with Master Shake, Meatwad and other oddball characters from "Adult Swim." So it makes sense that they've joined forces with some of the Swim voices on "The Mouse and the Mask," a collection of songs that slyly reference shows such as "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" without being commercials for them.

Doom wraps his raps in endless spirals of meaning, each song one long procession of puns. Who else out there is going to rhyme "flossy pen jargon" with "Faustian bargain"? And Danger Mouse provides Doom with an exquisite aural floor of bittersweet loops, speaker-denting drums, and a daring patchwork of musical scraps. Beats so good, they should be illegal. Well . . . they probably are illegal.

Meanwhile, the characters of "Adult Swim" cling to the sonic shore, trying to get in on the action. Meatwad spits a couple of mealy-mouthed verses, but poor Master Shake is reduced to groveling for a solo on Doom's answering machine.

The names of these cult characters, both living and drawn, will seem a bizarre incantation to most. By joining forces, three fringe phenoms may have found a way to combine their audiences into an appreciative alliance. All said, these misfits fit quite nicely.

-- Dan Charnas