Text: Paul van der Zalm
Translation : Bente van der Zalm

Viagra Boys release Welfare Jazz today, the successor of their debut album Street Worms from 2018 and the EP Common Sense that was released last year. The title is meant ironically and makes fun of the subsidies for jazz from the Swedish government. The irony is at the same time the best weapon of the band around plenty tattooed singer Sebastian Murphy. Because while listening to this album we constantly wonder if this band should really be seen as a macho post-punk band or if they’re just really good at pretending.

The humour is always there in the right amount and musically speaking the label seems off anyway. Opening song ‘Ain’t Nice’ still connects to successful song ‘Sports’ from the debut album, but is stuffed with strange squeak-grunt noises. If you continue listening the album and get to ‘Creatures’, the successor of this single and as a video the other half of the diptych, you’re listening to a real alternative disco song with dark lyrics. ‘Girls & Boys is a really danceable song with psychedelic characteristics and a nice chaotic ending. This track is very well suitable as a warm-up anthem at a concert or festival, especially the longer version on YouTube. This makes it one of the highlights of the album, even though afterwards you’re there wondering what this bands’ obsession is with shrimps…

You wouldn’t expect a country song from this band. But still ‘In Spite of Ourselves’ is a remarkable love song in country style with a featuring of Amy Taylor from Amyl and the Sniffers. The song is dedicated to John Prine, the folk singer that passed away last year. The karaoke video that comes with it, seems to be a reference to the genesis of the band. To compensate this it is opposed by anti-love song ‘Toad’, which sounds like a Tom Waits song following the saxophone intermezzo ‘Cold Play’. Also ‘I Feel Alive’, that is sung over a slow beat, makes us think of Tom Waits, but even more of a young Nick Cave. An older Nick Cave or for example Madrugada is heard on beautifully sang ‘To The Country’ over a background consisting of spherical synthesizer sounds. ‘Secret Canine Agent’ is a short rock ‘n roll parody with corresponding echo on the vocals and a nice bassline. The dog can also be found in the short poem ‘This Old Dog’. 

That there are indeed jazz influences (mostly because of Oskar Carls) can in particular be heard in the fun uptempo instrumental ‘6 Shooter’. Also the drum and bass is not to be missed. This is mostly heard in ‘Into the Sun’, with a beat like a steady pulse. They got Matt Sweeney, justin Raisen and Jeremiah Raisen for the production and also fellow-Swedish Pelle Gunnerfeldt (The Hives) and Danciel Fagerström have contributed to this album. 

It seems clear that the band is more serious than you might think in the first place. That is also underlined by Murphy himself: “We wrote these songs when I had been in a long-term relationship, taking drugs every day, and being an asshole. I didn’t really realize what an asshole I was until it was too late, and a lot of the record has to do with coming to terms with the fact that I’d set the wrong goals for myself.”

If you’re quick, you can still be part of the online release party tonight at 20h CET via http://bit.ly/shrimpsesh2.

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