By tackling some new ideas and developing their themes, the Viagra Boys offered us a successful and coherent second album, confirming their promises without falling into the trap. Welfare Jazz demonstrates once again the singularity of the Swedish Post Punk band.
It's finally back to school, a long awaited ringtone. Everyone in line, waiting wisely for what will be made of this new year. And yes, we all know it and it shouldn't be an exception this year, but the beginning of the year is very often a bit shy. Yet, like all music lovers that we are, the anticipation and excitement of what this year 2021 will bring is so present and intense that we rush to discover all the new things as if we hadn't eaten in weeks. That's the beauty of music. In any case, the year 2021 which has already started slowly with some interesting releases is getting ready, in my opinion, for its first expected release: Welfare Jazz from the group Viagra Boys. Then we head to Sweden, where we find one of the most atypical Post-Punk / Art Punk band of the last 5 years. With a first EP in 2016 called Consistency of Energy, the band led by singer Sebastian Murphy went from a noisy aesthetic to something much more energetic and danceable, reaching a kind of apotheosis for their debut album Street Worms which is so much talked about. A very raw beginning, where the character of Sebastian Murphy is characterised by his temperament and his foolish behaviour, denoting all the second degrees of writing, leaving many listeners conquered. 2 years later, it must be said that this famous and complex task of releasing a second album after an esteemed success still remains a haunt for many artists and bands who see it as a capricious burden. And this is no exception, the more the return is expected, the more you have to aim for the right thing.
Welfare Jazz demonstrates the band's ambition to progress towards other horizons, however, it sounds more like an intermediate album between the sound of the beginnings and what the next album could be. Indeed, the album takes up a good part of the basics established on Street Worms, from sounds to global themes, adding a more airy and less down to earth atmosphere than the previous work. In the end, it's not necessarily because it sounds like an intermediate album that it's negative, I'd rather say that the step to climb was high to succeed in concretising the hopes and expectations established thanks to the first album, and that it went more easily with another-two, basing itself on something familiar enough to affirm the new ideas. In any case, it certainly shows some limits, but the addition of a more psychedelic structure and a more country approach to some songs offers a new panorama to the Viagra Boys that we had got used to something more raw. Besides, the band hasn't lost its overflowing energy either, on the contrary, it is used in good doses without wasting it in order to leave many more moments where the music is warmer as if suspended in gravitation above the void. I particularly like the idea of trying to occupy the space with precisely this effect of gravity's weight, as the best example In Spite of Ourselves shows us.
The themes of Welfare Jazz are mainly led again by their leader. There are a handful of similarities with the previous album, however Sebastian Murphy shows a new face, at least a new approach on this second work. Welfare Jazz will rather satirically demonstrate the drifts and harmful defects of its own leader, while also extending to "man" in the global sense. Of course, I'm talking about masculinity. It is quite poetic and cerebral. This new album is like a kind of awareness on Muphy's part, like a personal questioning, both philosophical and political. It is the driving force behind the album. Unlike Street Worms, this new album is interspersed with interludes that demonstrate the humorous and thematic process that the band wanted to give to their project. To conclude, I would say that Welfare Jazz is a great success even if I don't think it's good enough to rival their first album. However, as I said, it may open the way to something even better. I appreciated the new ideas and new directions, despite the shortcomings the album lives well thanks to the alternation between the rawer sound of their debut and the new stuff. However, I find that there are some more significant passages missing, which at the same time show some irregularities. All in all, Welfare Jazz remains an exciting and seductive experience at the beginning of the year.