Brothers Joakim and Klas Ahlund, along with Patrik Arve, have been working under the Teddybears moniker since the early ’90s, trying their hand at everything from grinding death metal to kitschy reggae-pop before achieving international dance-floor success with 2006’s Soft Machine. Along the way, Klas produced “Cobrastyle” and many other tracks from the 2005 self-titled breakthrough of dance-floor hero Robyn, and both brothers started a sideline directing television ads. Which is telling: Nothing on Devil’s Music shows the stylistic flair or knack for using escalating rhythms to achieve emotional catharsis that defines Robyn’s best work, but it isn’t really supposed to. Teddybears traffic in brightly colored, attention-grabbing, unobjectionable dance rock that aims to sound just as good at an undiscriminating nightclub as it would in a beer commercial. One of Devil’s highlights, the goofy B.O.B. collaboration “Get Mama A House,” is already soundtracking a Swedish real-estate advertisement. This probably makes it a success in the Ahlunds’ minds.
Devil’s Music is ruthlessly tied to a formula of endlessly repeated big beats and big guest hooks, with smatterings of guitars, synths, and vocodered backing vocals buzzing about efficiently enough to fill out the rest of the track. As such, Devil’s Music lives and dies on the strength of the collaborators (lightweights like Laza Morgan lack the personality to elevate the material), as all the instrumental tracks just sound like long intros to better songs.
The Cee Lo Green and B-52’s collaboration “Cho Cha” is a cute-enough tribute to Green’s cat (or possibly his favorite stripper). To Green’s credit, he really sells it at the end with a repeated refrain “you take me as I am,” but those excited by the idea of two of Georgia’s finest meeting at last will be disappointed to learn that Fred Schneider only gets a few bars. Robyn, as expected, steals Music with the swift-footed “Cardiac Arrest,” proving that no amount of Auto-Tune abuse can drown out her natural charisma. It will probably be the best song on whatever videogame soundtrack it ends up on.