Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Soft Machine [Big Beat/Atlantic, 2006]  
  • Devil's Music [Big Beat/Atlantic, 2011] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Soft Machine [Big Beat/Atlantic, 2006]
By now we've met so many arty rockboys turned poppy tune phreaks that there's nothing special conceptually about this danceable Stockholm trio, debuting Stateside after starting as a hardcore band 15 years ago. What distinguishes them is execution. This isn't the "different sound" they advertise, especially in its electropop moments, but it isn't just more of the same. It's a hell of a lot more of the same--super-catchy, crammed with guest vocals. Expertly of course, they tone up or smooth down the catchiest songs from 2000's E.U-only Rock 'n' Roll Highschool for their crack at America, where the TV revenues they love are even more lovable. Mixes are brightened, grooves tightened, vocals changed: fresh recruit Neneh Cherry turns "Yours to Keep" sunny and sublime, and Iggy Pop rocks the postpunk "Punkrocker." There's ace new material too. But their best trick is doing dancehall right. Who knew Elephant Man was such a friendly guy? Who knew Swedes could toast at all? [Rolling Stone: 3.5]  

Devil's Music [Big Beat/Atlantic, 2011]
Where the nominally similar Gorillaz are cool and detached, Teddybears want the world and they want it soon. Early in the lead track Eve--you remember Eve--utters, in fact sings, "I am the robot Elvis rocking my bionic pelvis/I'm Technotronic sipping vodka tonics yeah I'm selfish/I am the Killer shaking up some more rock and roll," at which point a vocodored Patrick Arve, Joachim Ahlund, or (most likely) Klas Ahlund murmurs, "Them drum machines ain't got no soul." Joke or gauntlet? The cheap answer is both, but let's make it gauntlet. Not afraid to be funny because they're having so much fun, Arve-Ahlund-Ahlund are one more electrobeat-wielding Swedish cartel bent on proving that rock and roll proceeds from enlightened capitalism like we had in America before our plutocrats started expanding the national income gap up past Colombia's. As soon as Eve is through, here come B.o.B. exulting about how he's gon' "Get Mama a House," Wayne Coyne having a go at "Crystal Meth Christians," Cee-Lo and the B-52's praising a pussycat who happens to be named "Cho Cha." There's also some unusually cheerful Krautrock and the antidrug "Cardiac Arrest," featuring the Teddybears' close personal business associate Robyn, who's why they got to make another U.S. album. Last one was Soft Machine, 2006. Sounded good then. Now it sounds like rock and roll busy being reborn. A

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