Viagra Boys ‘Caveworld’ — From Apes to Modern Outcasts

2022 has been filled with outstanding musical releases so far and the Swedish rockers live up to the high standard set by fellow bands. Exactly a year and a half after their sophomore album Welfare Jazz, Viagra Boys return with their third release Caveworld.

Viagra Boys, among all the flourishing post-punk wave bands, are surely the one’s that circle their music around traditional punk features the most. Catchy lines and rumbling guitars have proved to be a strong suit for them, making their compositions stand out in this crowd of obviously super talented and prolific bands. Satire and manner of lyrics delivered by Sebastian Murphy, clashed with head-banging guitar riffs, and sprinkled with synth and sax flavors, is certainly a refreshing musical mashup.

In their latest release Viagra Boys continue to expand on this stylistic although the feel of this record differs quite distinctly from their previous work. Caveworld could be loosely labeled as a conceptual album. The lyrical themes focus on evolutionary development, paranoia, social ties, and norms, aiming to capture the relationship between behaviors exhibited by modern society outcasts (or at least that’s what these characters should be viewed as) and the reality of first humans, closest to apes. It is exciting to see them expand on this concept since even hearing only Viagra Boys’s previous recordings it seems like there is no other band more fitting to tackle this topic with their flagship mix of quirky and sarcastic vibe.

The opener Baby Criminal makes a great start to such an energetic record. It features a driving, thumping drum beat with some nasty guitar licks and tons of synth and sax swells. It tells a story of a young man Johnny growing up to become a full-grown criminal. The raspy voice of Murphy singing in the chorus from both a perspective of the boy’s mother, as well as from first person point of view in the last verse, makes these simple lyrics the more engaging. As if we ourselves could easily go from being this cute little child into a full-blown killer.

Next up one of the singles, Troglodyte a fast-paced, even dance’y track. Narrator tells a story of an isolated individual soaking in his hate for other people. His psychosis and alienation fueled by the late-night internet surfing and giving in to conspiracy theories can lead to very dangerous behaviour. Modern day society does not possess the tools to effectively cope with such people, whereas back in the “ape days” he would simply be killed-off as the unevolved one. Track led by a bouncy bass and covered with rudimentary synths, very simple yet so effective in this track that treats about just that, the limitation of some peoples thinking process.

Punk Rock Loser is the slowest paced track with very little variation. Probably the least adventurous tune of this record, yet the swagger of the bass accompanied by siren like guitars drip with character of Viagra Boys. The music comes together in the simplest way to make space for laid back and loose vocalizations of Sebastian Murphy. In a group effort they make up a great rock chant for all the cool guys in the place, embracing the raw energy of punk rock.

It’s follow-up Creepy Crawlers makes a great half time for the album. Not necessarily a composition at all, more of a rant backed by some noisy, spacious guitars and sax. The composition, quite abstract at first, gains structure once the drums start beating. This one is for all the lovers of non-melodic vocalizations and conspiracy theorists. Sebastian portrays a manipulated individual who believes in microchips being implanted with the vaccine and the harvest of children’s blood for adrenochrome, a substance that is apparently extracted from young blood and is believed to be the elixir of youth, providing its user with eternal life. A very climactic break-out from the obviously punk-rock compositions presented in the first part of the LP, even a bit like the psychedelic version of their sound.

It also sets the ground for the album defining Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis. This track takes a closer look on human existence before we evolved into Neanderthals. Once living such a simple life in the trees gathering berries, we were not the most powerful of the monkeys and were forced to seek other means of survival. Narrator in this history of his ancestors tries to find reasons for his condition nowadays. Indirectly he asks the question whether this evolutionary path we have taken thousands of years ago will really lead to our survival or is it just prolonging the inevitable demise. This track obviously stands off, with its slow pace calling for a moment of contemplation.

Right after the Boys get back on track with another driving, energetic Ain’t No Thief. Inspired by Sebastian’s former life as a speed freak, a life lead against the law, this song depicts his own outrage when being confronted by people about stealing. He would go crazy over the nerve they had to ask him this, whilst angrily denying all his actions. Besides that, it describes situations we’ve all been in (having the same lighter as someone else), it all makes for another great track with an engaging vibe.

Big Boy is kind of the most lo-fi and light-hearted of the tracks. Humoristic vocalization about being a self-providing and confident adult atop splashy drums underneath and flanked either side by high pitched falsetto choirs. Featuring the one and only Sleaford Mods’s Jason Williamson with an even more ridiculous verse about “Captain Daddy” it’s just the mashup to break-up the albums flow and change it around.

Penultimate ADD is a dance club tune. Very drum machine type beat with wobbling bass, supported by synth parts, and snappy, 80’s like guitars coming in for the choruses. This lets the whole story of all the daily, basic issues of a person suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder unfold in a way so that we feel like this psychological condition is a kind of “party”. A one man, lost inside his own head, but still a party. ADD is also earlier mentioned in track Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis and this is clearly a self-referential track from Murphy who discussed his forgetfulness and troubles with concentration in interviews before.

Human Error, another ambient and glitchy interlude leading in with whispers “leave society, be a monkey” right into a thumbing finale. Return To Monke hits right of the bat with rising guitar and bass combination and overdriven vocals treated to sound like a jammed CD or scratched vinyl. These flashy effects instantly rip us out of this second, more chill part of the album making this last track stand out, as it should. The tension in the narrative accumulated throughout this album gets released in this track through an encouraging chant directed towards every hateful, delusional, paranoid, and ignorant person.

“Leave society, be a monkey”, throw shit at each other, never vaccinate, go ahead you troglodyte. A bold statement so as not to leave anything to speculation about Murphy’s views. As the album slowly trails off, he reports a story of cleaning up a murder scene, consequently making a connection between higher-status,“civilized” environment of politics and other neanderthal behaviours depicted on the album. His monkey-like moans and screams lead us to a closure, as people really turn into monkeys and start “killing each other out here, man”.

The perfect ending to this conceptual album.

Viagra Boys deliver an extremely current record. Centered around the subject of human condition in a modern world ruled by mass media exacerbating condemnable behaviors and views. Certainly, this subject and its execution on this record bring along just the vibe shift that Viagra Boys needed after their first two releases. Not acting out of character, but coming from a place of contemplation, Murphy brings along some of the most coherent lyrical work of his by harnessing his raw, energetic vocals to harshly ostracize modern day human behaviours that shouldn’t be accepted, as we consider ourselves the most developed species.

What’s next for Viagra Boys at this point is hard to tell. They sure enough proved to be able to make a great conceptual release and probably will not follow-up with the same approach. Still is satisfying to see that they’re still searching to improve their sound since they are one of the most prominent bands of modern music scene.

Mikołaj Maciejewski