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Viagra Boys - Welfare Jazz (Album Review)

Tuesday, 12 January 2021 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Marcus Wilen

With the future of global democracy in a perilous, yet darkly comic, place, it’s probably a good time for a new release from Stockholm-based satirical edgelords Viagra Boys.

The post-punk quintet’s second album ‘Welfare Jazz’ is an energetic exercise in scuzz-rock fusion that demonstrates an attractive versatility, but also the limitations inherent in calling your band Viagra Boys.

We open with the single Ain’t Nice, a breakup song that lists singer (and tattoo artist) Sebastian Murphy’s emotional disorders in growling, sardonic couplets:

“I'll borrow your stuff and never put it back / I'm kinda hungry, can you get me a snack? / Well, trust me honey, you don't want me / I'll start screaming if you look at me funny.” 

The video matches its cruel humour—it comprises a tracking shot of Murphy stumbling down a city street causing nihilistic trouble like a latter day Richard Ashcroft. 

Some of his shouty proselytising recalls another indie singer from the turn of the century: Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist of the Hives. This vocal style crops up on Secret Canine Agent, a song that ratchets up Murphy’s fixation with his dogs, and Toad, where a guitar dirge  is matched with rock-priest spoken word.

Elsewhere, Creatures is a high point, with synth bass leading a disco-pop track with a driving rhythm and catchy chorus. And while the album never really broaches the jazz described in the title, the balladic To the Country and In Spite of Ourselves offer tonal variation. These two closing tracks demonstrate nuanced emotional impact via a thick slice of Americana (Murphy hails from San Francisco) that rounds things off handsomely.

For the most part, ‘Welfare Jazz’ is a decent, serviceable indie-punk record, but it also falls between two stools. It doesn’t quite have the anarchic flavour of Fat White Family or Osees, and it doesn’t have the machine-tooled bangers of Fontaines DC or the Hives themselves. Despite all the tattoos and hardcore tendencies, the record lacks either more musical invention or punk primitivism. That band name might be getting in the way.

Viagra Boys Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue June 01 2021 - BRIGHTON Brighton Concorde 2
Wed June 02 2021 - NEWCASTLE Newcastle University Student Union
Thu June 03 2021 - GLASGOW Queen Margaret Union
Fri June 04 2021 - LONDON Village Underground
Sat June 05 2021 - LIVERPOOL Invisible Wind Factory
Sun June 06 2021 - DUBLIN Academy
Tue June 08 2021 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Wed June 09 2021 - BIRMINGHAM Mill
Thu June 10 2021 - BRISTOL SWX

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