Introducing the Chapter 2 of Viagra Boys: Viagra Men. Now 50% more boring!
The maturation is a very intricate, intimate concept. And it becomes even more intimate when it comes to music, – and especially to punk music. Some artists and bands try to pursue their bombastic qualities as long as they can write catchy riffs and bass grooves, others evolve the sound to match the change in their minds (and arms). And so Viagra Boys fail on both directions, producing second full-length album overflooded with new ideas of questionable quality. But, first things first.
The singles to Welfare Jazz were not only promising – they were truly evolutionary for the band's sound as they began to explore new wave grounds whilst sticking to the original energetic nature of the band. 'Creatures', for example, was one of my favourite songs of 2020 with its soaring refrain 'We are the creatures, down at the bottom', exploring the sombre theme of addicts' fate in native to the (most) of the Viagra Boys' members Sweden. 'In Spite of Ourselves', cover of the John Prine's track from 1999 LP of the same name beautifully done with the assistance from Amy Taylor of Melbourne-based pub ragers Amyl and the Sniffers, increased the expectations even more as the band explored the country folk sound, unknown for them earlier.
And so I was absolutely crushed to realise that Welfare Jazz does very little to actually fulfil these expectations. Plowing into more 'art' side of the art punk and introducing a whole lot of influences in one fell swoop does not automatically makes your album any better, but bloated and unfocused. While the largest part of the self-aimed humour, dynamic, rough around the edges production (actually, a lot cleaner than on debut, but still) and widely accepted Sweden act's punk jazzy dynamic are still there, it feels incredibly blurry and overstretched on the uneven ride through 13 tracks Welfare Jazz is offering.
'Ain't Nice' is an amazing opener, but what follows next... The interludes, 'Cold Play', 'This Old Dog' and 'Best in Show II', instead of adding to the whole spectre of sonic diversity of the album just slow it down and smash into the different pieces for no known reason. And, on top of that, these pieces itself don't provide enough grooves and movement to come back to them solely for the ideas they are offering. Spoken word part of 'Toad' is alright, but the country inspired vocals in the second part of the song on top of the rhythm part extremely reminiscent of the debut album doesn't help the track in general. And the same can be applied to 'Into the Sun' – what is this, Pantera's acoustic song rip-off? And the feeling of significant re-using going on only increases as '6 Shooter' starts, almost exact copy of sonic patterns introduced on 'Shrimp Shack' and 'Amphetanarchy' from the 'Street Worms' LP, only to be interrupted by the strange middle part thrown in for no goddamn reason, and then to increase again as the same patterns (more or less jazzy) continue. Should I say that a major part of 'Girls & Boys' is oddly similar to 'Sports'?
The second leg of 'Welfare Jazz', by the way, is much more captivating tan the first one. 'Secret Canine Agent' and 'To the Country', being the two completely opposite poles of the record (and also two of the shortest tracks here – if we aren't counting stupid interludes), are the only non-singles highlights of the album, both of them equally dynamic and menacing in its own way.
'We wrote these songs at a time when I had been in a long-term relationship, taking drugs every day, and being an asshole', – said Sebastian Murphy, Viagra Boys' frontman in one of the interviews preceding the album. Maybe that's the point of 'Welfare Jazz', that tries its best to be the reiteration of previous works, filled with whole bunch of new ideas, but like in the long-term, destructive relationship, it only feels boring, confusing and tortured. Dog humour is nice, by the way.
Favorite tracks: 'Creatures', 'Secret Canine Agent', 'Ain't Nice', 'In Spite of Ourselves', 'To the Country'
Worst tracks: 'Toad', 'Girls & Boys'