Teddybears’ album falls short despite notable guest vocalists

Aaron West

Teddybears’ discography has the sound of a band that’s been around long enough to have completely changed their style a few times. Since 1991, the band has given everything from death metal-influenced grindcore to reggae-infused pop a go, until they eventually settled on their current incarnation — a catchy, dance-happy electronica band, complete with teddy bear masks with eyes that light-up red.

It’s as logical an identity as any, and it sort of makes sense when you listen to their newest release, Devil’s Music, a funky mix of electronica, hip-hop, rock, pop and a whole lot of guest artists. Well, maybe electronic teddy bear masks don’t really make sense in any setting (it gets so sweaty in those things), but hey, light-up eyes — so much fun! It’s as if Deadmau5 and the Berenstain Bears started a family!

The Swedish band is made up of brothers Joakim and Klas Ahlund and Patrik Arve, who began to see success in 2005 with singles “Cobrastyle” and “Hey Boy” and by landing spots on video game soundtracks, such as “Forza Motorsport 2,” and an Intel commercial. Klas Ahlund produced Robyn’s self-titled 2005 release, and the similarities between Devil’s Music and that album are apparent. But as filtered through a teddy bear mask, punch is watered down a little bit. The album’s tracks sound too similar to one another, and while that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, it definitely won’t help any of the songs break out from the car commercial sample future that they’re destined for.

The guest appearances, of which there are many, are without a doubt what’s keeping the album from being packaged with a Redbull, the latest “Need for Speed” video game and slapped with a “Listen To This CD To Get Pumped Up” label. In “Crystal Meth Christian,” The Flaming Lips chime in to make the track sound, would you believe it, very similar to a late-career Flaming Lips song. That song is complete with Wayne Coyne’s addicting, flutey vocals and the same lyrics (“Hey crystal meth Christians, how many fingers are up on my hand?) being repeated over and over again.

Cee Lo Green and the B-52s share the title for standout guest appearance on “Cho Cha,” which is also one of the best tunes on the album but perhaps would have worked better as an extra track. Green spreads his buttery smooth sing/talk on thick while the B-52’s echo in typical “tin roof rusted” fashion, but the lyrical content, dedicated to a cat named “Cho Cha,” is too out there to be truly welcome with the rest of the album’s songs.

The other guests, which include Robyn, Rigo and Jamaican reggae singer and rapper Laza Morgan, make Devil’s Music much more than it would have been without them. But even with all the star-studded tracks, Teddybears’ latest release won’t be going much further than being used in a mash-up at Barbarella for the next couple of months. 

Printed on 07/07/2011 as: Teddybears' album flops on many levels