Viagra Boys - Welfare Jazz
Jan 11, 2021 (updated Jan 13, 2021)
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Viagra Boys are one of the many promising bands in the post-punk scene from last decade that appeared alongside groups like Protomartyr and Iceage. They don't sound totally alike those other bands though; they have the post-punk energy of Idles, with the scuzzy garage riffing of Oh Sees. They released a pretty nasty sounding EP last year, much different from their debut album, but that EP didn't represent a change in sound for an upcoming album, because here, Viagra Boys offer their most varied work yet, where they throw all their ideas at a wall, called this album for 40 minutes. The result isn't always their best material though. That being said, they start off killing it on "Ain't Nice", which is an extremely scuzzy piece of punk, where the bass is mixed especially loud, with some jazz instrumentation that makes its way into the end; it is one of Viagra Boys' best songs in their short catalogue to date.

Things get confusing from here though, with the 30 second saxophone improv interlude, "Cold Play". Rather connecting into something similar, it then goes to "Toad", which is like Viagra Boys gone country. The spoken word cowboy intro, and the hollow bodied guitars don't lead to the same excitement that their other songs do, as cool as it is in concept to hear them jumping from one musical idea to a completely different one. "This Old Dog" is another short interlude, this time with more cowboy spoken word. The spaghetti western continues onto "Into The Sun", but the faint, twangy guitars really lack any presence though, not leaving much more than Sebastian Murphy's vocals.

Wellfare Jazz manages to get even weirder on "Creatures", with its unlikely combination of genres. The synthesizers and the drum beat sounds like some 80s synthfunk, but then they bring back the saxophones later on. I wouldn't mind hearing Viagra Boys futher explore this sound, but their signature messy, static production and mixing does not compliment the song at all, and kind of ruins any sense of groove that it had going for it. It reminds me of if Nine Inch Nails were to collab with Depeche Mode, and this would be the result, if it went poorly at least. This is so not the case on "6 Shooter" though, where they return to more familiar territory, and they are able to rock a groove pretty well, even for the full 5 minute runtime. Then there is some wild sax playing that appears near the back end of the track, and it sounds like if they hired John Zorn to lay down some improv.

"Best in Show Ii" is another interlude of spoken word, but this time with some odd alien sounds, which made me wonder what was coming next. "Secret Canine Agent" is a short lived but high energy piece of garage punk with a driving beat and guitars with this strange effect on them, that sounds like something Dope Body would have written. This also has one of the best choruses on the record with its vocal harmonies, and it almost reminds me of Misfits in a way. Despite its brief length, there is a cool chord change as its wrapping up, and it still finds time for some more free jazz right at the end. "I Feel Alive" begins with a quite faint bar band quality piano instrumental with Sebastian's very distorted singing on top; I don't know if this is supposed to have a drunken flair to it, but it is not gratifying. Things do pick up near the halfway point though, with its slightly off kiltered harmonies and additional instrumentation.

"Girls & Boys" is more of Viagra Boys' great jazz tinged post-punk, so it is a shame that this is followed with another helping of their weird version of country music on "To the Country", even if its production is more suiting than with other tracks in this style. They finish it off with a tribute to the late John Prine by covering his song "In Spite of Ourselves", in their strange fashion. I like their unlikely harmonies with Amy Taylor, which is like something that King Gizzard would come up with, and it's an interesting take on the track, that doesn't at all sound derivative of the original. Wellfare Jazz is a decent sophomore album from Viagra Boys, which had potential to top Street Worms, but is it better? In my opinion, no. I liked hearing the band this versatile, but sadly I don't think every stylistic switch up panned out the best.

Favorite tracks: "Ain't Nice", "Secret Canine Agent", "6 Shooter", "Girls & Boys"

Least favorite tracks: "Into the Sun"
2 Comments
Jan 11, 2021
good review
Jan 13, 2021
Thanks!
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