The swedish post punk band provide a record full of ups and downs, which manages to cover a vast array of different sounds but only appears in the midst of a misleading album title, as "Welfare Jazz" shows, at most, very little jazz influence throughout its duration.
And yes, that's the main problem that occurs with the effort, amongst many others, it prepares the listener for something that doesn't even come, as with its title you'd expect some sort of jazz and punk fusion or at least a much more inventive and avant-garde take on the subgenre, yet, even if there's a sizeable amount of risks displayed, it still lands as a relatively straightforward approach, as it simply aims to fuse punk with much more danceable, accessible and lively elements in its production.
With that, "Welfare Jazz" stands as a bit of an irregularity, as you wouldn't necessarily expect a band composed by a lead vocalist with such a smoky voice to be the one to try to incorporate a much more disco infused style of punk, as that blend would've worked much more efficiently and smoothly if it accompanied someone with a singing style that was more soothing that the one we stand with.
Even while all of those obvious flaws stand with the record right from its beggining, it's quite surprising how "Welfare Jazz" is still able to carry on and pans out to be a remarkable experience in the midst of all its chaos, and while the vocalist is one that isn't unique enough to stand out from the crowd and his voice was one to create an awkward juxtaposition with the aesthetics, the production in itself is extremely punchy and dynamic and serves as a great example of instrumentals that are able to quite single-handedly carry the LP on their back, as there is not much enjoyment to get out of the main singer, whether it be in his performances themselves or in the content that he provides, yet the band's members that are working behind the scenes bring an extremely significant palette of sounds, which is rather multi-layered and engaging.
I don't want to be intensely harsh with the singer, however he proves himself to be mediocre at the best and it is actually easy to demean his performances in this case, as he is quite evidently wasting superb ideas, the country inspired enunciation he's attempting subtly throughout the record doesn't bother much but when it takes full form it spawns two aberrations in the back end of album, which both exhibit a tacky and tasteless venture into country rock.
Apart from those, his contributions are mostly decent in comparison to the post punk scene, there are not as nearly as many rebellious and agressive themes and deliveries as you'd expect and, additionally, the ones he proposes aren't too pertinent either and in the chorus segment there isn't much of anything noteworthy to grab onto as well, as they are delivered in a way that's quite formulaic and repetitive, another department in which the sonic configurations have to make up for, dispatching textures that bridge the gap between being memorable and simultaneously bold.
In this case, they definitely saved the best for the middle to bottom section of the album, right before the worst two tunes, the project starts exceedingly sluggish with tracks that were rather foreseeable, complemented with instrumental passages and wasteful interludes that serve very little purposes and once those are out of the way it begins to gain momentum and sequence much better, those only excel at setting up tracks that feel, in comparison, much less standard, feature unpredictable song structures and presence from the lead singer that was often way more quirky.
Viagra Boys took the slow start to the year as an opportunity to release a record, such which turns out to be quite inconsistent but an entertaining experience overall, featuring rhythmic production that merges surprisingly well with the noisy guitar riffs and a vocalist with a distinctive voice that, despite being able to become grating after a while, creates an interesting contrast with the instrumentation.
Favorite tracks: Creatures, I Feel Alive and Girls & Boys.
Least favorite tracks: To the Country and In Spite of Ourselves.