Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz

Viagra Boys are one of the few post-punk bands out there that still find new ways to invigorate the genre. The Swedish quintet’s latest album Welfare Jazz is a wonderful collection of odes to self inadequacy, featuring the “creatures down at the bottom”, the drug laced and the broken, with lovers tip-toeing between responsibility and commitment. All of this is laced with a weird amalgam of jazz, synthpop and punk in what seems to be a meta satire of established genres. It’s deconstructive but very catchy. You’ll often hear horns and synthetic beeps where they shouldn’t be, yet they manage these curveballs in a way that makes perfect sense when looking at it as a whole.

Opener “Ain’t nice” perfectly encapsulates the album’s tone. An electrifying bass accompanies Sebastian Murphy’s vocals with synth embellishments acting like strobe lights on a disco floor. It’s a declarative statement full of acidic swagger that lingers on through the record.   

I find the bluesy tracks in this album very intriguing, as the presence of synths and heavy bass gives it a very different atmosphere from the Mississippi Delta. “Toad” shares some tradition from southern blues complete with a husky vocal delivery except it feels like it was sung from a trailer park full of cigarette butts and busted amps. “Into the Sun” turns the previous track around its head as we find our rebel sobering up after a moment of reflection. Between this and the honky-tonk sounds of “I Feel Alive”, there’s a Tom Waits kind of gruff bravado that gives it all a gritty exterior, with sensitivity peeking from within.

Then there’s the dark synthpop sounds of “Creatures”, and the sound transports us into the back-end alleway of an underground club. Groovy and mysterious, with smooth horns and swelling synths. It feels like you’re passing through a dark smoky room with a good change to get mugged. “Girls & Boys” introduces us to the denizens of this area. A disco song with elements of vogue and doom rock, it balances between high and low life in a completely off-kilter way.

Although Welfare Jazz is dark, most of it is tongue-in-cheek with plenty of added levity. It depicts life in all absurdities and is willing to make fun of it. I find “Secret Canine Agent” the most enjoyable and lighter ones of their tracks, where Murphy imagines his own dog as a spy agent providing him with vital information. Viagra Boys’ second offering is likely something you’ve never heard before, but its greatest strength is that even in all of its absurdity, it never fails to be entertaining.

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