Viagra Boys, a post-punk band hailing from Sweden, found a niche for themselves in an increasingly experimental genre with Cave World, their third studio album – which has proven the band a worthy contemporary of the likes of Black Midi, BCNR, IDLES, and Squid. The best quality of Cave World could also transpire to be its greatest flaw: via its time-sensitive themes and subject matter, the album paints a devastating portrait of an increasingly paranoid society created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet it is easy to foresee this messaging being lost as future generations revisit the album, by which time, hopefully, society will have progressed past the tight limitations of human nature portrayed across these 11 tracks in 40 minutes.

“Our ‘intelligence’ is deemed a side effect of an initial, continuously perpetuated human weakness”

“Baby Criminal” is not so much a mission statement as it is the first in a series of vignettes that ultimately form a structure cohesive enough to prove that a step-by-step narrative is not mandatory for a concept album. The song provides a chronological tour of the life of Jimmy, who goes from “the cutest little baby” to spending his time “in the kitchen, / microwaving batteries”, until he is finally found “in a little suit of tinfoil” and arrested for attempting to build a nuclear device. This narrative is accompanied by bass-heavy riffs, layered synths, and swirling saxophones, all of which works towards encapsulating the corruption of innocence and the powerlessness of society to prevent it. On “Troglodyte”, perhaps the best song on the album, we find another, similar character, who “goes to work on his computer / [And] thinks about his gun at home. / One day, he’s gonna be a shooter. / He’s gonna bring his gun to work.”

“This album, overall, is a wonderful concept album”

This song expands upon the message of “Baby Criminal” and sows the seeds for the ultimate thematic resolution found on the final track, “Return To Monke”: it would be better, the album insists, if we were still apes; or, rather, it would be better if the gun-toting, science-denying “troglodytes” would give up on the pretence that they can function in an ideal society, and revert to apehood. “Creepy Crawler” gives us a glimpse into the internal monologue of such a troglodyte, particularly relating to paranoia over vaccines (“They’re putting microchips in the vaccines / Little creepy crawlies / With little legs that creep around your body / Collecting information”) and “Adrenochrome”, a chemical believed by some conspiracy theorists to be harvested from children to make the global elite look younger (“It reduces wrinkling / And makes the pupils look like human pupils, and not all slanted little lizard eyes”). The song harkens to deeply toxic figures such as Alex Jones, Andrew Wakefield, and David Icke, and debunks their arguments, not by critiquing them directly, but by letting them sit uncomfortably over a swirling pattern of synths and drums, played up as some form of psychotic breakdown.


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Another highlight is “The Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis”, perhaps the grooviest, catchiest song of the year so far. Like “Baby Criminal”, the song provides a chronological narrative, but, this time, the subject is humanity as a whole, and our ‘intelligence’ is deemed a side effect of an initial, continuously perpetuated human weakness (“Our ancestors were very weak, / The other chimps kicked ’em out of the trees, / And they were forced to learn how to speak, / And exchange for other important things”). The album is very slightly weaker in the latter half, with perhaps the two weakest songs being “Big Boy” and “ADD”. However, “Ain’t No Thief” features a highly engaging musical palette and the ingenious story of a man at a party who has clearly stolen all of your possessions, but who vehemently denies doing so (“I had six or seven lighters in my left pocket: / I took out the one that said, ‘Shrimp City Beach, 1993’, / And you told me, that’s where you had your birthday party, / And that the lighters were given as gifts, / But I was there, too, / Just dippin’ my toes down on the beach, man”). The aforementioned “Return To Monke” is the perfect closer, building up perfectly into a groovy condemnation of western society today, advocating, as ’Troglodyte” did, to “leave society, / be a monkey” (“You don’t have to worry about no current events, / Just rub a frog on your genitals, and / Stop paying your rent” or “Quit your job / Collect some sticks / Find a tree / Move into it”).

It is very difficult to discuss this album without consistently quoting the lyrics, because they are the driving force of the project. The instrumentation, while fantastic in its own right, serves almost exclusively to provide the perfect tone and violent atmosphere for the lyrics to meaningfully subsist on. This album, overall, is a wonderful concept album, and, on top of this, it is incredibly catchy, warranting many repeat listens.