Album review: Viola Beach‘s self-titled album is genuinely enjoyable

Soaring on a mighty wind of goodwill, the eponymous collection has already stormed up the UK charts – Viola Beach now have a No 1 album, as well.
Viola Beach by Viola Beach. Courtesy: Fuller Beans Records
Viola Beach by Viola Beach. Courtesy: Fuller Beans Records

Viola Beach

Viola Beach

Fuller Beans

3.5 stars

The Viola Beach story is one of the more shocking events in recent pop-music history, a tragic tale that recently enjoyed an unexpectedly uplifting second act.

In February, the acclaimed young British indie-pop quartet from Warrington, Lancashire, were returning from a gig at a festival in Sweden, one of their first foreign gigs, when their car plunged into a canal, killing all four members – singer Kris Leonard, guitarist River Reeves, bassist Tomas Lowe and drummer Jack Dakin – and their manager, Craig Tarry.

It was an abrupt and violent end to a hugely promising career. But a few months on, something rather wonderful happened. In June, midway through their headline set at Glastonbury, Coldplay paid a unique tribute.

“We’re going to create Viola Beach’s alternate future for them,” said Chris Martin, “and let them headline Glastonbury for a song.”

Which they did, with a clever audiovisual duet: Viola Beach on video and Coldplay joining in from the stage.

Meanwhile, the band’s recordings were being fashioned into a debut album, with the blessing of their families, which is now complete.

Soaring on a mighty wind of goodwill, the eponymous collection has already stormed up the UK charts – Viola Beach now have a No 1 album, as well. It comes as an enormous relief to report that the record is genuinely enjoyable.

Listening to a posthumous album can be a uniquely sobering experience, though. The better it is, the more poignant it becomes, every lyric assuming an unintended weight.

“Won’t you come home? ‘Cause I need you home,” opines Leonard on the otherwise optimistic opening track, Swings and Waterslides.

Viola Beach were a refreshingly feel-good band, and these are songs full of youthful hope, innocently fuelled – according to the festival-friendly track Go Outside – by sunshine and lemonade.

Thankfully the listener’s baggage lessens as the guitars jangle winningly, and what becomes increasingly clear is the sheer joy that went into the making of these songs.

There’s a crisp, distinctive energy to Leonard’s delivery, which probably benefits from the lack of infinite studio retakes, ironically. The band have been captured in a vital moment.

The sequencing has been handled with care, too, as the album concludes with Boys That Sing – that Glastonbury track.

“And she told me that together we could do anything,” sings Leonard. “And she told me she loves a boy who knows how to sing. So I learnt how to sing.”

And he fades away. Beautifully done.

Published: August 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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