It is amazing how far a gimmick can take you at times. Releasing their first album—a hardcore punk record—in 1993 as Teddybears STHLM You Are Teddybears was a far-cry from their 2006 greatest-hits collection Soft Machine and it’s dubbed out, new-wavey dance rock. The album a reasonably delectable corralling of 98% old material re-mastered and re-packaged for North American audiences complete with some exceptional guests (Iggy Pop, Mad Cobra), a crisper name and giant fucking bear masks. Promotional tactic aside the group had an admirable live presence frequently causing crowds to erupt as their bloated heads bobbled up and down above their turntables. A cheap trick sure but there was a respectable level of allure that went with these elusive Swedish DJs (think Daft Punk but much less grandiose)—It also helps when you release a track like “Punk Rocker” or break onto US dance floors and MTV airwaves like they did with “Cobrastyle.” What was an unexpected byproduct of this newfound exposure was the increased spotlight upon Teddybears revealing their weaknesses. Sure they enjoyed the world tours (“Mama haven't you heard?/We've sold out all over the world!” Desmond Forster relays on the abysmal “Get Mama a House”) and international celebrity but as time progressed Soft Machine’s flaws became more apparent with a back catalog less compelling than one would think with such an intriguing show put forth with Soft Machine.
So where have our disguised super heroes been these past five years? Essentially making the same album of mid-level electro-rock with distinct tinges of dub, UK grime, hip hop and new wave along with copious guest vocalist—except this time rather than cherry-picking the best from their past three records the Teddys have started from scratch. A fascinating situation at first turns into disappointment then to borderline banality by the end of their sixth record Devil’s Music as it does not chock up to much more than a lazy attempt at a rehash of something that was not exciting enough to warrant the revisit in the first place. In the wait between their last two albums the Teddybears seem to have spent excessive time touring with not enough studio hours logged. This may not be the case in truth but Devil’s Music cannot help by come off as a devilishly sluggish record that sounds like a poor attempt at striking gold once more rather than an evolution of their sound. Which would not be half bad if Devil’s Music performed better than Soft Machine-lite.
To their credit though, Teddybears still seemingly possess a sense of studio-ease when it comes to working with other artists. “Cho Cha” an acid-washed, post-punky romp featuring Cee-Lo Green and the B-52’s (and what may and or may not be a wonky ode to, well, vaginas) possesses enough spirited oomph that the rest of Devil’s Music sorely lacks. Even on the aforementioned “Get Mama a House” Desmond Forester can muster up little enough excitement for a game of Bingo, let alone a song about attaining wealth and worldly appeal. This is Devil Music’s death knell: Teddybears on their own are not all that interesting (insert: punky beat, dubby flourishes with a psychedelic backdrop) as their music bends-and-breaks on the backs of their guests—guests who are not up to the challenge unfortunately.
Being as such one could view the album’s track list as indicative of quality—if the guest is good presumably the song should be too. While this hypothesis works somewhat (as much as any sweeping generalization does) what is most discouraging is that really “Cho Cha” is the only excellent song they can assemble. Even as the guest list is not all that more or less potent than Soft Machine’s but the performances just do not come through with the same earnest. "Crystal Meth Christian" is all woozy-psychedelics as would be expected from The Flaming Lips but the track would be a safe little chirp on any of their last four records. “Rocket Science” little more than a robotic showcase of a behind-in-her-game Eve and the rest are relatively unknown artist who do little to cement themselves as someone that demands attention. Which in truth is the overwhelming sentiment Devil’s Music presents: it does zilch other than simply exist making no arguments for you to give a shit beyond laurels that were never that impressive in the first place.
2. Get Mama a House (ft. Desmond Forster)
3. Cardiac Arrest (ft. Maipei)
4. Glow In The Dark
5. Get Fresh With You (ft. Redfox)
6. Cho Cha (ft. Cee-Lo Green & The B-52s)
7. Crystal Meth Christian (ft. The Flaming Lips)
8. Cisum Slived
9. Devil's Music (ft. ADL)
10. Tek It Down (ft. Rigo)
There is more than one group with the name Teddybears.
1. A popular Swedish electrorock band formed in 1991
2. The Teddy Bears were an American doo-wop group active in the 1950's which featured notorious producer Phil Spector.
3. A garage rock band from Norway formed in the early 2000's