Viagra Boys — Welfare Jazz — Album Review

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Alternative | Rock | Electronic

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple Music

While my decision to review the sophomore album from Swedish post-punk band Viagra Boys, primarily came as a result of me browsing the new releases on Album of the Year, I had still heard the name of the band floating around enough for my focus to instantly be on them.

While the name of Viagra Boys seemed familiar to me, I was pretty much clueless as to what they sounded like exactly going into this. But upon venturing into Welfare Jazz, and giving the album my typical skim-through, I was easily able to pinpoint the realm of which this album stylistically borrows from. However, the slightly more adventurous path that Viagra Boys take, in comparison to their 2018 debut Street Worms, begins to solidify a belief that is growing within me. There may just be some sort of new rock/post-punk revival going on, with elements of jazz giving the genre the current edge it needs.

And as the title suggests, there indeed feels like Welfare Jazz incorporates elements of such a genre, to the point where this album is the second that I’ve reviewed this year, that feels somewhat influenced by the likes of Protomartyr, and their 2020 album Ultimate Success Today. I don’t know whether it was just because that aforementioned album stuck out to me so much, but I am definitely noticing a bigger trend in rock/jazz fusion recently.

Although, the genre-crossing nature of Welfare Jazz doesn’t stop there, there are very clear elements of electronic and country as well. And while this inevitably gave the album way less consistency, I still found that it still holds what it can together, as opposed to spiraling into a truly chaotic record.

For me, the biggest contributor to Welfare Jazz still feeling like a true album is indeed its narrative, and also serves as one of the albums best attributes, with themes of being a “bottom feeder”, and all the feelings of self-loathing that come with, being the hot topic on this album.

But taking a u-turn back into my least favourite aspects of the album, they would have to be the over-abundance of interludes, as well as the country-inspired tracks that play out towards the very end of the album. For the former, I don’t mind interludes if they serve a purpose; and for me, the only one that truly succeeded in this was “Best in Show li”, an interlude which I feel would’ve worked best if used as an intro for Welfare Jazz. With the other interludes, all I really got from them, was a sense that they’ve incorporated more jazz into the record, which I feel might as well have just been made apparent through more actual tracks.

And while I appreciate Viagra Boys’ experimental ambition on this record, I felt that the latter of the main issues I have with the album, the inclusion of country-inspired tracks, shows that perhaps the band spewed a few too many creative ideas onto this project. And ultimately, I felt that this album aesthetically, could’ve gone a long way without the inclusion of country tracks, that don’t atmospherically blend well at all with anything else, throwing a spanner into the works.

But while this album had a few obvious holes to pick at, it is still a very solid and enjoyable piece, when one focuses on the better parts of it. I would say for me, the best point of Welfare Jazz would be from tracks 9 through to 11, where we get a triad of tracks that were both brilliantly engaging, and wildly different from one another (in the best way, of course).

I would still recommend you give this album a listen, if a versatile record is the kind you are looking for. And with a decent batch of musical gems to be found within, Welfare Jazz still remains a worthwhile listen.

Favourite Tracks: Ain’t Nice | I Feel Alive | Girls & Boys

Least Favourite Track: In Spite of Ourselves

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Enjoyment: 7/10 | Memorability: 8/10 | Atmosphere: 7/10

Uniqueness: 8/10 | Satisfaction: 6/10 | Narrative: 8/10

Final Score: 7/10

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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