London ball

Electric Ballroom, London – live review

Viagra Boys
Electric Ballroom, London
December 14, 2021

From the rousing Neanderthal rhythm that kicks off Research Chemicals ‘first set, to the apocalyptic raised knees that end Shrimp Shack, it’s party after party at the Viagra Boys’ London concert.

“I never thought I would be sitting here in London screaming into a microphone about worms,” ​​admits Sebastian Murphy from the Electric Ballroom scene.

He is not the only one. Superficially, at least, the rise of Viagra Boys from the Stockholm punk scene seems surprising. There is this name. There are the lyrics: Worms does what he says on the box; one of the group’s greatest songs has Murphy listing various sports. There are sax solos. There is the keytar. We have the impression that they are only pissing.

But their success seems inevitable if you dig a little deeper – or experience them live. Turns out the name is a barbed-wire commentary on hypermasculinity. Lyrically, the subject goes from social conditioning to eviscerations of patriarchy. Saxophonist Oskar Carls plays like Miles Davis during the Bitches Brew era on ecstasy. Elias Jungqvist only resorts to this keytar out of necessity: it’s hard to lug a keyboard on top of a 10-foot-tall stack of speakers. And the dark, satirical humor that underlies everything the Viagra Boys do only makes them feel more dangerous, more unpredictable, more punk.Viagra Boys: Electric Ballroom, London - live review

Not that they need a lot of help on this front. Their concerts are a riot. Fans of the rail crowd ride, fall in circles, bump into each other and, as Murphy puts it, dance for a lifetime.

The six men on stage match the energy. The singer repeatedly jumps into the photo pit. He lies on his side. He gets on all fours. He straddles the monitor speaker as if it were a pig.

Meanwhile, the musicians around him play with the ferocity and intensity that the songs demand. But, clearly talented and well rehearsed, they are equally capable of sudden changes in beat, slowing down the pace to let the tension build before releasing it into another maelstrom of sax, synth blarps, and cacophonous beats. And they have no trouble embarking on extended jams that can evolve into grooves so hypnotic that they almost become hallucinatory.

Viagra Boys: Electric Ballroom, London - live review

Yet no matter how hard and heavy the music gets, it never really loses that Swedish sense of melody. And the band never loses that Swedish sense of humor. Despite all the aggressiveness of their sound, a Viagra Boys concert is outrageously fun. From the sultry Neanderthal rhythm that kicks off Research Chemicals’ first set, to the kneeling apocalyptic that wraps up the Shrimp Shack finale, it’s one party after another.

The highlights are numerous. The raw power of the instrumental Six Shooter just keeps building, building and building itself, taking a brief break before building more. The (relatively) restrained worms, demanded by a fan up front, sway like something Butthole Surfers or Flaming Lips might have imagined in the 90s.

Sports (“Baseball, Basketball, Weiner dog, Short shorts, Cigarette, Surf board, Ping pong, Rugby ball, Wiener dog, Ski, Down on the beach”) is a masterclass of deadpan delivery and roaring injured lion from Murphy (glasses sun, shirt removed). And Toad, who cooks up Elvis and The Doors in a meth lab, is like nothing the Viagra Boys are making us swallow tonight.

You can find Viagra Boys on their website as good as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Lyrics by Nils van der Linden. You can visit his author profile for Louder Than War here. He tweets like @nilsvdlinden.

All photos © Paul Grace. To learn more about Paul’s writings and photos, see his archives. Paul is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and its websites are www.paulgrace-eventphotos.co.uk & www.pgrace.co.uk.