Teddybears: Enigmatic Troublemakers

Jul 25, 2011
Originally published on July 25, 2011 5:49 pm

The Stockholm production trio Teddybears aren't really a band as that term is usually employed. They rarely play live and prefer to hire more personable performers to front their tracks. In the past, they've been known for mild, electronically treated vocals on mild, electronically treated dance songs. But on their newly released album, Devil's Music, they like things much livelier.

In tone and emotional fact, the track "Get Mama a House" is exceptionally innocent pop music. But Teddybears don't define themselves as pop. Quite explicitly, they mean to make trouble, and they mean to make rock 'n' roll. On "Get Mama a House," the singsonging American rap hit-maker B.o.B. tells us his money comes from the Japanese Yakuza and the Russian mob. And the title track of Devil's Music takes that old blues trope literally. Listen carefully and you'll hear Robert Johnson name-checked as Robert J, down at the crossroads where Bo Diddley meets Eddie Van Halen.

Having established their rock 'n' roll bona fides, Teddybears then expand the definition of rock 'n' roll. Troublemakers they may be, but they include not one but two anti-drug songs: "Crystal Meth Christians" with Wayne Coyne of the neo-psychedelic Flaming Lips, and "Cardiac Arrest" with their best-known collaborator, the Swedish dance-thrush Robyn.

The way Devil's Music gleefully morphs from style to style is challenging and endearing. Teddybears may be unnatural as musical sentimentalists define that silly term, but their electopop has a heartbeat and their drum machines have soul.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And critic Robert Christgau says, on their new album "Devil's Music," Teddybears go rock 'n' roll.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU: Teddybears rarely play live and prefer to hire more personable performers to front their tracks. They're capable of mild, electronically treated vocals on mild, electronically treated dance songs. But in general in "Devil's Music," they like things much livelier.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET MAMA A HOUSE")

TEDDYBEARS: (Singing) Mama, haven't you heard? You heard? We sold out all over the world. The world. I got yen in a suitcase from the Yakuza. I'ma get my mama a house. I got rubles in a shoe box from the Russian mob. I'ma get my mama a house.

CHRISTGAU: And the title track of "Devil's Music" takes that old blues trope literally. Listen carefully and you'll hear Robert Johnson name-checked as Robert J. down at the crossroads where Bo Diddley meets Eddie Van Halen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEVIL'S MUSIC")

TEDDYBEARS: Devil's music. Devil's music. (Unintelligible).

CHRISTGAU: Having established their rock 'n' roll bona fides, Teddybears then expand the definition of rock 'n' roll. Troublemakers they may be, but they include not one but two anti-drug songs: "Crystal Meth Christians" with Wayne Coyne of the neo-psychedelic Flaming Lips and "Cardiac Arrest" with their best known collaborator, the Swedish dance thrush Robyn.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CARDIAC ARREST")

ROBYN: (Singing) Hey, little sister suffragette, baby Barbie on barbiturates. Sleepy heads gonna wake up dead. A trail of crumbs leading from your bed. So come on and shake your bone maker and shake your bone maker.

CHRISTGAU: The way "Devil's Music" gleefully morphs from style to style is challenging and endearing. Teddybears may be unnatural as musical sentimentalists define that silly term, but their electropop has a heartbeat and their drum machines have soul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEVIL'S MUSIC")

TEDDYBEARS: (Singing) Sell your soul to a 45. Lose yourself to the other side. Bow down to the big reverberation.

NORRIS: The new album from Teddybears is called "Devil's Music." Our critic is Robert Christgau.

TEDDYBEARS: (Singing) Lose yourself to the other side. Bow down to the big reverberation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.