Greetings 2021, it's nice to see you.
Viagra Boys, the Swedish beasts of post-punk, continue to ignore genre conventions and dig deep into their grotesque world of musical mayhem. Their particular brand of grit and grime continues to impress as much as it did on their debut LP Street Worms. If that album caught your attention and suited your fancy, expect their second outing Welfare Jazz to hit that same sweet spot.
Viagra Boys do an exceptional job of staying true to form while reinventing their already eclectic sound. Street Worms saw their odd approach come to life with squealing saxophones and the chaotic drawl of lead vocalist Sebastian Murphy, who doubles down on being one of the most enthralling post-punk vocalists in the modern era. These same elements continue to shine through on songs like Girls & Boys, featuring those same frenzied saxophones, groovy percussion, and even Murphy making absurd sounds in the middle of a verse. Ditto for opening single Ain't Nice, which is sure to be one of the catchiest songs of the entire year by its close, with a strong hook and fun energy.
At the same time, there is an impressive level of invention across Welfare Jazz. Creatures bridges into new wave territory, another genre heavily entrenched in the post-punk ethos, with bright synths and some genuinely excellent vocal moments from Murphy, who is clearly versatile outside of just being violent. Some of the biggest moments of surprising innovation come on the final two tracks. There's a dim tone coupled with southern influence both lyrically and in twang seen on To the Country. Then, there's the unexpected cover of an even more unexpected influence John Prine, which sees Murphy duetting with Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers on a song that tricks you into believing it'll be another traditional Viagra Boys track but quickly moves into uncharted territory for the post-punk outfit. There's always been some level of western sound to Murphy's vocals but they suit the cover far more than what one would have anticipated.
Viagra Boys also have a similar and relatable ethos as post-punk contemporaries IDLES, who I've sung endless praises for over the last few years. Lyrical content shows the unwavering wit, humor, and satirical nature of the group through and through. Viagra Boys exude this masculine imagery but find ways to spit in its face, showing secret sincerity under all the layers of silliness and sheering avant-garde approaches. Seeing post-punk push boundaries in modern times is truly something we should all be ecstatic about, opening the doors for more acts to see how far they can take their content and concepts not just musically but in tone and theory.
Viagra Boys felt more like an antic act back in 2018, with the hilarious and ballsy song Sports being a major standout in the groups debut. Here in 2021 they show some real experimental chops, yet they keep the antics alive by keeping it all entertaining throughout. I couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable start to this new year of music, and that it comes from an up-and-coming post-punk outfit only makes it a bit more sweet. Expect Viagra Boys to come back with more absurdism, more abrasion, but an undeniable integrity to their sound in the future. Their sophomore release should prove, if nothing else, the group have far more to offer going forward.
Favorite track: Ain't Nice