The Teddybears' Picnic
Few can crank out the guilty/not guilty pop pleasures like the Scandinavians: ABBA, Roxette, Ace of Base, teen-pop impresario Max Martin, Junior Senior. The Scandy-pop tribes simply have an uncanny knack for sating the world’s musical sweet tooth. The latest in a proud tradition: The Teddybears, a former hard-rock band — called Skull! — from Sweden, now making dancy indie rock-pop-dancehall-electronic fluff. Their debut album, Soft Machine (Big Beat/Atlantic), is an unabashed and better-than-expected ?good time.
The Teddybears wear huge bear heads, but their identities are not a secret. You may remember Teddybear Joakim Ahlund from his other other band, Caesars. No? How about “Jerk It Out,” Caesars’ catchy-cool garage rocker that sounded like Franz Ferdinand doing Smash Mouth, heard on those flailing-silhouette iPod commercials last year? Yeah, I thought so.
That song was overexposed to the point of ubiquity; now, the Teddybears are reaping the benefits of that (literally) commercial success. Ahlund has reinvented Teddybears into a jumpy dance-pop outfit somewhere between DFA, Fatboy Slim and a semi-ironic Hollywood hipster party (like there’s any other kind). And since we hook-hungry consumers can’t get enough of scarily catchy tunes in adverts, their hand-clappy raga-charged single “Cobrastyle” has been making the rounds in spots for Tab Energy drink and, most effectively, a break-dancing Heineken ad worth finding on YouTube. (Note: “Cobrastyle” refers to guest vocalist Mad Cobra.)
The disc has plenty of sweaty dance tracks à la “Cobrastyle,” including “Throw Your Hands Up” (with dancehall hero Elephant Man on the mike), but keep your ears open for two particular standouts. “Yours to Keep” is a sunny, top-down anthem featuring the original Kelis (that would be Neneh Cherry) on vocals, with new school Swedish pop queen Annie cooing behind her. A close second is “Punkrocker,” featuring the king of them all, Iggy Pop, barking to the guitar-powered beat. So: While Soft Machine may not exactly be a work of substance, that’s pretty much the point. In short, don’t think — just dance.
THE TEDDYBEARS | Soft Machine | Big Beat/Atlantic
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.