Album Review: Viagra Boys – Cave World – mxdwn.com

January 15th, 2023 – 12:00 PM
An array of experimental stories

Post-punk group Viagra Boys gifted fans with a new album in 2022. Released on July 8, this summer LP explores storytelling against backdrops of psychedelic-like instrumentation and experimental sound effects. Cave World is 12 tracks of riveting tunes that feel unfamiliar and thought-provoking for a fresh listen.
The album kicks off with “Baby Criminal,” a track centered around a troubled boy named “Jimmy” as he ages from childhood to adulthood, told through the eyes of his worried mother. The song’s three verses lyrically present his story with three different age groups: early childhood, teen years and adulthood, where he ends up in prison for attempting to “build a nuclear device.” At the song’s core, Jimmy’s mother compares her son to his baby self, which is apparent through chorus lyrics such as “he used to be a little baby and now he’s just a criminal,” and “Oh, what happened to my little boy?” 
His mother’s perspective is further shown when she makes assumptions during Jimmy’s teen years: “late at night, he’d sneak out, all drеssed up in leather. His mama criеd, ‘Oh no, my child’s in some sort of gang!’” We never know what Jimmy got up to those nights, because the song focuses on his mom’s emotional responses to incidents throughout his childhood and adolescence. Musically, the song is groovy (almost jazzy) and upbeat with funky, high pitched effects that smoothly spill into the next song.
Track 2 is absent of lyrics. With 39 seconds of experimental instrumentation, “Cave Hole,” is one of the shortest songs on the album (second to “Human Error,” which is 29 seconds). In “Cave Hole,” reverberated water droplets contribute to a cave-like atmosphere, hence the track and album title. The song plays with other sounds as well, such as ethereal synths, bird chirps and uneasy bursts of static.
Perhaps one of the band’s most popular tracks from the album, “Punk Rock Loser” constructs a complex character, done similarly as the album’s first track. Unlike “Baby Criminal” though, the character in “Punk Rock Loser” paints his own narrative with a first person approach to storytelling, accompanied by some steady bass and guitar strums, a crashing drum set and a vibrating whir that gracefully hums through most of the tune.
Possibly this character’s most captivating quality is his ability to exude confidence without sacrificing the brutal honesty of his flaws, and one could say his openness to confront and then casually shrug off his faults is an appealing quality in itself. For example, he easily admits his chain is “fake” gold and that he doesn’t particularly care about others. His monotone delivery confirms this disinterest. However, he also identifies himself as “really cool” and “loose.” In fact, the song’s key takeaway is probably that he’s loose, as it’s repeated both in the chorus and verses multiple times.
Each piece of Cave World adopts its own personality through a range of themes and sounds. The band members of Viagra Boys play with perspectives when depicting their far-from-perfect characters. Though each song feels inconsistent with each other, the work’s larger purpose makes it more cohesive. As a whole, Cave World digs deep into emotions that rattle within us all, which is why this record can resonate with all listeners in some capacity.

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Maddie Pimlott
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