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Album Reviews: Soft Machine by TeddybearsPerhaps you're familiar with Teddybears and their Soft Machine album from its multiple offerings to the Least Favorite and Most Overplayed Commercials of 2006 soundtrack. See, here's the problem with ad guys: they have access to the same music as the rest of us. A lot of them have fine taste and are fine people and probably can give enthusiastic answers to questions like "Why do you think Hem would be a good fit for an insurance commercial?" Unfortunately, even the lazy ones can snag a few tracks off the mp3 blog of the day and, presto, be at least somewhat down with the kids.
This reviewer would be one of the last to suggest that bands should be shamed for finding ways to make some bucks on their music through commercial licensing, particularly when that music, like Soft Machine, practically announces its commercial aspirations in its liner notes. There are, however, consequences. One of the unfortunate consequences here is that "Punkrocker," one of the most irresistible and euphoric tracks of the summer, with a maximum-personality guest vocal from Iggy Pop, has now become -- thanks to a million plays during this reviewer's beloved football Sundays -- inextricably linked to a Cadillac commercial. Maybe there's something wonderfully subversive about Iggy Pop saying he's a punkrocker, yes he is, while he makes money off Cadillac (likewise for "Lust for Life" becoming an anthem for cruise line customers). Maybe Cadillac is in on the irony, too -- although it's more likely that they heard the opening line ("See me driving down the street") and thought, hey, Iggy Pop is singing about driving! It's perfect!
Anyway… as commercial-friendly as Teddybears are, they're equally at home on the dance floor, and prove themselves difficult to pin down on Soft Machine (as befits a duo that began in grindcore…you've come a long way, baby!). There are visits to tropical dance floors and brushes with austere German electronica. Neneh Cherry makes a comeback, and Ebbot Lundberg (of The Soundtrack of Our Lives) drops in for a psychedelic trip-out. The front half of the album tries desperately to please, with mixed results. "Different Sound" (the one from the Intel commercial) is bubbly and energetic, and Cherry's "Yours to Keep" is summery but not sugary, but "Cobrastyle" (the one from the Heineken commercial) is disrupted by a grating vocal from Mad Cobra. Elephant Man fares a little better representing dancehall on "Are You Feelin It," though the requisite "throw your hands up" chorus doesn't quite stand up to repetition.
Aside from the still-great "Punkrocker," the second half ventures off the beaten path a bit more. Some have taken this as a lack of focus or identity, but it actually serves Teddybears very well; they are essentially tourists to many of these styles, and those styles would probably sound strained if stretched over an entire album. But when you get just a little dose of silly vocoder antics ("Automatic Lover") or ambient bleep-blipping (the change-of-pace closer "Alma"), it makes for an entertaining listen. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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