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ALBUM REVIEW: Viagra Boys Enter New Era with 'CAVE WORLD'


Viagra Boys posing for album artwork
Photo by Fredrik Bengtsson

On their newest album, Cave World out now via YEAR0001, Viagra Boys weaponize absurdity, tossing firecrackers into the middle of the room and standing around to see the reaction. "I just love when things get lost in translation," vocalist Sebastian Murphy says. "The whole world is going backwards, and I'm not going to tell anyone what to believe or what side to take."


Viagra Boys embody that seething satire, daubing darkly comic moments in grit and sleaze. On album single "Punk Rock Loser", Murphy insists that he’s a “savage” and “really cool” in the most affectless, unconvincing slur he can manage, the normally wild band tamed into a bouncy pulse with only a few strands of frayed guitar squelching through the mix. "I’m loose," he adds, a word the US-born vocalist has tattooed in Swedish on his forehead. You can even peel away the near-total coverage layer of tattoos from Murphy to reveal the easy-going counterpart to the wildman howl that has graced stages around the world. If his perspective of the messy contradictions of the world are fair game, he says, yours should be too. "If that's the way you see me, I'll write a song exactly that way,” Murphy laughs. "But that's not the life that I live. I just hang out with my fiancée and watch movies."


For lead single "Ain’t No Thief", Murphy similarly undercuts his savage persona, only to have the band ramp up the motorik intensity in response. After being accused of stealing someone’s jacket, he insists it couldn’t be possible, that he had been gifted the jacket by his accuser’s grandmother after helping her at the grocery store. "I ain’t no thief, we just happen to have the same stuff…motherfucker!" he spits. Underneath, drummer Tor Sjoden pushes the pace aggressively, charred synths chasing at his heels. Those rough electronics underpin the slouchy "Big Boy", Murphy’s verses followed by an outro courtesy of Jason Williamson from fellow experimentalists Sleaford Mods.


Viagra Boys posing for album artwork
Photo by Fredrik Bengtsson

As 2021’s Welfare Jazz was earning rave reviews, Viagra Boys were in the midst of rerecording what would become their followup. After putting together an entire album at the legendary Silence Studio in the town of Koppom, the band decided they could push harder. "We let it marinate for a while and then rerecorded absolutely everything," Murphy explains. Some of the music made it through to what would become Cave World, but replacing the lyrics. In that iterative process, Murphy found himself returning time and again to a misconception with deeper roots: the idea that humanity is moving forward.


The first track borne of that inspiration, "Cognitive Trade-Off Theory" locks into one of the most radio-ready grooves of the band’s catalog, Murphy delivering devastating lines in his approximation of a Bowie-esque falsetto. "We climbed down from the trees and learned to speak/ We lost our detailed short-term memories," he sings, Henrik Hockert’s bass thundering through like wooly mammoth footsteps.


Elsewhere, his first draft of "Troglodyte" inadvertently mixed up the titular cave people with prehistoric sea creatures called trilobites. But true to the contradictions and mixed perspectives at the core of Viagra Boys, he decided to go with it, enjoying the ironically muddied water and his own misconception as much as anyone else’s. "Take everyone back a million years ago, the gun nuts and people that are quite far out on the political spectrum suddenly wouldn't be so tough because they wouldn't have any guns and they would just get beat to death by other apes,”" Murphy says. The album’s cover even incorporates a drawing of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film’s warring apes presumably just out of frame.


As the album roars to a conclusion "Return to Monke", the scientific themes on "Cognitive Trade-Off Theory" get roughed up to a primate degree, aping some anarcho-primitivist memes Murphy had seen circulating. "Leave society, be a monkey," the band chant, Murphy swinging through the mix, voice cracking and gargling in the vein of David Yow of the Jesus Lizard. "I think they’re planning something sinister with the global elite/ They’re the ones who say the earth is round and tell me what to believe/ But they can’t shoot me up with no 5G if I’m a monkey living in the trees," Murphy howls from the perspective of the conspiracy theorists he’d been obsessing over.


"Society is in such a weird space right now," he says. "I loved hearing all these people that decided they were never gonna listen to Rage Against the Machine again after Tom Morello gave interviews about his politics, as if they had no idea every song was about that. Maybe this’ll end up being an anthem for a lot of anti-vaxxers. Now that would be hilarious."

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