The post-punk style of the Viagra Boys

One Saturday evening in June, I was hanging out at the neighborhood bar with a couple of friends, blowing the breeze, when one of them turned to me and said, “How about we drive in Turku tomorrow and watch the Viagra Boys? and Jose Gonzalez? They both play at the festival there. We were in Vaasa, on the west coast of Finland; Turku, Finland’s oldest city, was nearly 350 km to the south and the trip each way would take us about four hours. So that meant an eight-hour drive because everyone had to get home before Monday morning, when work announced.

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We were still considering the proposal when Madeleine, our courageous friend whose boundless energy and enthusiasm always baffles me, said, “Let’s go. I will drive both ways. And that’s what happened. Three men in varying stages of drunkenness were driven by a sober woman to a rock festival, happy in the end that they had decided to go. We watched three acts that night: José González, the Swedish indie folk singer from Gothenburg, dazzled us with his solo presence on stage, accompanied by his guitar and a loop machine; legendary American turntable DJ Shadow, dubbed the Jimi Hendrix of sampling, wowed us with his trip-hop, hip-hop and electronic classics; and, of course, the Viagra Boys, who were by far the best band of the day.

I first met the Viagra Boys in 2018, when a friend asked me to watch their song video, Sports, on Youtube. I had never heard or seen anything like it. The video, the song, the lyrics… they were instant excitement. The Viagra Boys quickly jumped to my favorites list. Originally from Sweden, they offer a post-punk rock that is both messy and cerebral. Led by Sebastian Murphy, a US-born Swedish resident who is the vocalist and main driving force behind the Stockholm-based band, the Viagra Boys make loud music, with minimalist punk-style melodies and, often, a keyboard and a drum. saxophone influenced by jazz. solos.

But it’s Murphy’s lyrics and stage presence that set the band apart. At the Turku gig, he was, as usual, shirtless, flaunting his tattooed chest (he’s a tattoo artist, as is his bandmate and bassist, Henrik Höckert) and had a case of beer and a bottle of vodka handy. on the scene. The Viagra Boys have a style of heavy drinking and partying. Many of their songs are about drugs and alcohol, but they also comment on society’s pranks and pretensions. And there’s a unique irony that runs through many of their lyrics.

Sports, for example, is a cynical confessional song that is the antithesis of what “sports” would mean to someone. The video, which takes place in a tennis court where people are playing the game, shows Murphy (shirtless, as is de rigueur for him) staggering to sing lyrics that are the opposite of what one might expect: Beach ball/ Volleyball/ Naked girls/ And naked boys/ Dancing/ On the beach/ Smoking dope/ Short shorts/ Cigarettes (Wiener dog)/ Getting high in the morning/ Buying things on the internet/ Sports/ Sports/ Sports / Sports.

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The Viagra Boys are not for the faint-hearted. Their lyrics, videos and music can be a shock at first. But I’ve managed to convert a few of my peers (who are mostly weaned on classic 1970s rock and are, in general, risk averse when it comes to new music). At the concert in Turku, the band lived up to its reputation. Murphy was iconoclastic and wild – he has a vocal style that falls somewhere between singing and speaking – and the sound was at its best. Saxophone and keyboard solos by Oscar Carls and Elias Jungqvist, respectively, dazzled, and the high-adrenaline vibe of the stage quickly infected the crowd gathered in front of the outdoor stage. Murphy and his pals chained up old favorites (including Sportsof course) as well as some songs from their new album which will be released soon, cave world.

cave world is their third album, and it was released after the concert, in early July. I am happy to report that this is probably their best work so far. Songs such as Loser of punk rock, TO ADD (a reference to the Attention Deficit Disorder that Murphy apparently suffers from) and Back to Monke come out. The songs are satirical, full of one-line hits that poke fun at society and conformist norms; the music is explosive; and sax and keyboards blaze groovy. What’s not to like about the Viagra Boys?

Well, there is something. At the concert, we watched Murphy drink and smoke while performing on stage. Partying seems to be kind of a lifestyle for him and the band. Last year, the group lost a guitarist, Benjamin Vallé, who died too early at 47 years old. And, as we watched the band perform in Turku, I couldn’t help but wonder if they were going too far. The history of rock music is littered with early deaths, burnouts and other tragedies. Perhaps today’s party bands like the Viagra Boys should take a moment to consider whether, in the end, it’s worth it.

The list of fairs

First Beat is a column about what’s new and groovy in the music world.

@sanjoynarayan

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