Teddybears: Enigmatic Troublemakers

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hide captionTeddybears.

Chrissy Piper/Courtesy of the artist
Teddybears.

Teddybears.

Chrissy Piper/Courtesy of the artist

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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