Home Music QUICKSPINS: Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz

QUICKSPINS: Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz

by Wesley McLean February 2, 2021
QUICKSPINS: Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz

The Stockholm post-punk outfit expands on their wildly eclectic sound, as their absurdist critiques become more focused on themselves.

Up to this point, Viagra Boys’ music has been characterized by its extremely satirical tone, walking a very thin line between critique and comedy, occasionally stumbling fully into the latter. It’s this obnoxious yet endearing approach to social commentary that made their debut album, Street Worms, such an intriguing listen, and it’s something they’ve doubled down on with Welfare Jazz.

However, as much as this approach is used by frontman Sebastian Murphy as a means to assess and sarcastically deride the social world and its shortcomings, he’s begun to look inward, and begin assessing his own. Many tracks on Welfare Jazz see Murphy reflecting on himself and his relationships, satirizing his own actions and his behaviours, and he does so from the outset.

The album begins with the fantastic “Ain’t Nice,” a song that sees Murphy painting himself as a short-fused and opportunistic asshole, essentially telling his partner it’s his way or the highway. The song’s refrain has him repeatedly, almost boastfully, growling that he and his behaviour “ain’t nice!” over an insanely infectious bass groove. The latter half sees the song devolving into a perfectly chaotic mess of Murphy’s raspy chants, horns, drums, bass and synth sounds creating a mosaic of aggression.

This unpredictable sonic collage is something that the band has also somehow made a part of their signature sound. They often fuse the more “traditional” post-punk and new wave aspects of their music with jazzy horn sections that often play like misplaced solos, thrown into the mix with heavy basslines and synth leads. As chaotic as it sounds, it often comes together seamlessly, as evidenced by the album’s instrumental-heavy cuts, such as “6 Shooter.”

This wide array of sounds and musical influences gets built upon even further as the album draws to a close.  On the final two tracks, the band successfully add elements of country music to their genre-blending gumbo with the aptly titled “To the Country” and the Amy Taylor-assisted cover of John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves.” Both tracks look at possible futures for Murphy’s relationship, though the forced southern drawls and almost mocking tone leave the latter feeling slightly insincere.

As a whole, it’s Viagra Boys’ unabashed approach to experimentation in their music that makes the band, and Welfare Jazz, so special. They create without seemingly any pressure to fit into any convention and always appear comfortable in the chaos, and they’re better for it.

 

Rating: 8.5/10

Trial Track: “Ain’t Nice”

 

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