Street Worms

Street Worms' by Viagra Boys, album review by Leslie Chu.
Street Worms' by Viagra Boys

Our Rating

8.5

On Viagra Boys’ debut album Street Worms, the Stockholm punks mix the horror of Suicide, the urgency of Nine Inch Nails, and the heat-seeking destructiveness of the Stooges with heavy doses of the Fall and James Chance and the Contortions.

Liars, addicts, toxic men, and failures inhabit Viagra Boys’ world. On album opener “Down in the Basement”, a cheating husband seeks kinky, latex-suited thrills in someone else’s basement. “I’m not like that!” he insists after his wife busts him by snooping through his phone and following him into the night. “I was just trying something new! I’m not like those other guys!” he cries in futile explanation. He then bursts into maniacal laughter that betrays his sincerity.

“Sports” is a nut-shot to hyper-masculinity. Sebastian Murphy sings as if his masculinity is being challenged. He recites mental flashcards of “manly” interests: various sports, naked, dancing girls, and dogs. But he also lists ping pong and naked, dancing boys. The breed he names is the wiener dog. These “less masculine” references come off like Freudian slips.

Murphy references dogs throughout Street Worms, most prominently on “Best in Show.” On top of the distorted frequencies of a fried radio transmission, he provides over-the-top play-by- play of a dog pageant. The song completes the album’s reoccurring metaphor of humans as animals. Both species are reared as competitive, ostentatious creatures. “He wags his tail because he knows he is a winner. He is not a product of what is expected of a dog. But he is above that. He has risen. He has ascended above the clouds,” Murphy barks.

Viagra Boys also reference substance use throughout their music. “Research Chemicals”, from their 2016 12” Consistency of Energy, details the side effects of a bad trip. “It’s getting hard to breathe. You’re feeling like you’re gonna die. They told you it was just like weed, that this could happen your first time.” The main character on album cut “Shrimp Shack” huffs a towel dipped in formaldehyde. The band’s name diminishes men, first by name-checking a performance- enhancing drug, then reducing them to boys.

Despite Viagra Boys’ misanthropic worldview, they do not always claim to be morally superior to those they criticize. On near-title-track “Worms,” Murphy recounts a dream in which he gets buried. “The same worms that eat me will someday eat you, too.… Nibble on your feet, and they nibble on my toes. They become the same when our bodies decompose. You’ll turn into dirt some day, same dirt as me.” Regardless of how we all live our lives, we all end up the same. This cold-blooded song is one of Viagra Boys’ slowest – slow like the rotting process it details. Chillingly, with such fetid imagery, “Worms” is also one of the band’s most gruesome songs.

Viagra Boys pack a lot of commentary into Street Worm’s first 31 minutes. But in the album’s final six minutes, the band let the music do all the talking. Instrumental closer “Amphetanarchy” is a chaotic rush that squeals with tangled, strangled saxophones and electronics on top of pummeling drums. If Viagra Boys’ words are not enough to sum up society’s ills and the madness of human life, the music is.

review by Leslie Chu