Viagra Boys edge towards Fat White Family territory

This month marked the release of Welfare Jazz, the second studio album from Stockholm punk sextet Viagra Boys, and we at By The Freaks notice some of their sonic explorations have steered them into the psychedelic country realm of the sleazy South London group, Fat White Family.

When Viagra Boys dropped the third single from their sophomore album, In Spite of Ourselves, it was a far cry from the Stooges-style Proto-punk of Research Chemicals and Lick The Bag. Covering country singer John Prine seemed like an odd decision but when combined with a collaboration from Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers the band really make it work. Viagra Boys absolutely make it their own, turning an upbeat country tune into a lo-fi bad trip which, rather than being an ode to this odd couple standing by each other to the very end, paints an image of these two caricatures somewhere desolate in the Deep South of the States, with no other option. How far away is it from the airy sound of Fat White Family tracks like Lebansraum, or When Shipman Decides? Of course, both bands have their own very distinct sounds but it is interesting to see both taking country trademarks and putting a psychedelic twist on them.

Then we have Into The Sun, which has the psychedelic droning intro of a track from Fat White Family’sSerfs Up!‘, before the raw, crackling voice of Sebastian Murphy breaks in. The reoccuring theme on Welfare Jazz, love, that pops up in as mellow a tune as the aforementioned In Spite of Ourselves and in their more gnarly and abrasive tracks like Ain’t Nice appears again here, as the narrator shames himself for his past deeds, pleading he could change if that was all it took for his love to take him back.

Then there’s Creatures. Reminiscent of a track on Viagra Boys’ first album, Common Sense, in that the band invite us down into to revel in the pits and see through their eyes exactly what it is like down there. “We are the creatures that steal your copper” and other such exclamations call to attention the overlooked person in the room, giving flesh and blood to sights from which eyes are so often turned away.

It’s not all dissonant harmonies and bad trip soundscapes though, By The Freaks aside from their first single, the dirty and sleazy Ain’t Nice, but now let’s add to the foray the quick,frantic, and crazy Secret Canine Agent, into which Viagra Boys seem to have compressed more than a minute and a half’s lunacy, and the surprising addition of instrumental, 6 Shooter.

Does Welfare Jazz mark the beginning of Viagra Boys becoming like Fat White Family? No. They certainly share inspirations and even have a few similarities on how they play with conventions but that is just a small part of Welfare Jazz. Just like so many times before Viagra Boys have proved they are not a one trick pony, they have refused to rest on their proto-punk roots, they have dived into other realms but resurfaced in time to reach others and with each exploration come up with something new, how else could Welfare Jazz be as varied an album as it is. Sleaford Mods have already commented on the album as being a banger and we all know how hard it is to get praise from those guys.


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About callumfcsteele 53 Articles
London based promoter and musician

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