Reviewing Viola Beach’s album, and why we should support new music more

viola beach

As I sit down to listen to and write about the posthumous release of Viola Beach’s self-titled album, I’m reminded of Chris Martin’s words onstage at Glastonbury last month. Speaking about the tragic passing of the Warrington band and their manager in February of this year, the Coldplay frontman said, “It just reminded us of us and all the other bands that come through here, the excitement and the joy and the hope and we really felt that in them…So Kris and Jack and River and Tomas and their manager Craig, this is what would have maybe been you in 20 years or so and I hope we do your song justice,” before he and his bandmates launches into a stirring cover of ‘Boys That Sing’. It feels like forever ago, before all the pain and hatred that has plagued the world lately, but it was just a few short weeks back.

Being released with what I’m sure must be the utmost pain and sadness by the families of the band themselves, ‘Viola Beach’ presents the sound of a band having an almost-illegal amount of fun travelling around the world, meeting new friends, falling in and out of love, and coming a long way from humble beginnings to escape their hometown. It’s that town which is raising funds for a Viola Beach memorial , and is even helping young performers and artists realise their own talents, having been somewhat put on the map when news first broke of the band’s untimely deaths. “I don’t even know if there’s a place that I can go,” sings Kris Leonard on ‘Go Outside’, with the kind of youthful pondering about the possibility of greener grass elsewhere, all the while showing hesitancy on ‘Like A Fool’; “You’re dreaming, dreaming of a better life while I’m dreaming dreams of sleeping by your side,” paints the picture of resistance to the conventional ‘let’s get out of this town’ mentality that plagues so many debut albums.

Don’t you know how hard I’ve tried to leave you behind?” asks ‘Cherry Vimto’, a kind of bittersweet love letter that you sense was written knowingly too late to make a difference, but was still therapeutic to put down on paper. That’s the central idea to these nine songs; feelings that were desperate to be let out and expressed via jangling guitars, energised rhythm sectioning, and insistent melodies. ‘Drunk’’s jaunty exterior is built around the very teenage urge to go out and get fucked up, and ‘Really Wanna Call’ is like a more uplifting ‘Mardy Bum’, full of love but with none of the arguing.

Simple rhyming couplets are paired with heartbreak on ‘Call You Up’, sounding like an indie rock ballad that would’ve kept any mid-00s band in employment for an extra couple of years with ease, while some of the lyrical metaphors expressed throughout the album (“You’re the lemonade that flows so fluently down my throat“) are so cheesy-good that it’s hard not to smile at the innocence of it all.

Indie-band-Viola-BeachIt’s easy to be complacent about new music, to be pessimistic about a new artist, or act nonchalant about a group because it’s the cool thing to do. After all, the hype machine is a force for evil in today’s world, right? But while we’re busy looking the other way and shouting into the void about our opinions, the world is passing us by and bands like Viola Beach are trying to rise above that incessant stream of noise in order to be heard by, of all people, us.

We (and I’m not using the Royal ‘we’) are shitty, salty, sarcastic, and oftentimes stupid people that don’t know a good thing when it smacks us in the face or, more conveniently, lands in our email inbox. We never, ever deserved a band like Viola Beach, nor any of the hundreds of bands who compete for our attention each year. This isn’t some overly-sentimental thought that I’m writing in the wake of losing a band all too soon either; you could find a baker’s dozen of amazing, unheard of artists on the ‘Coming Soon’ poster at your local music venue, and they’re all desperate for you to hear their music and show them the love that they’ve shown all of their favourite acts.

So don’t mourn the fact that Viola Beach aren’t here to see out the release of their all-too-brief life’s work. Celebrate that work, adore it, play it over and over again, and tell all your friends to listen to it. Then go and find a band that has just released their first single or EP. Go see them on their first tour. Buy a t-shirt. Put their songs on the Valentine’s Day playlist you make for a loved one to show them just how much they mean to you. Appreciate them, because who knows how long you’ll have to do so – take it from someone who brushed off four lads from Warrington first time round because he didn’t give them a chance. Viola Beach were on tour with Blossoms and The Vryll Society when they were taken from us, so perhaps start with them.

Boys That Sing’ concludes proceedings in the most bittersweet manner possible, as anthemic as it was on the day it came out and more poignant with every passing moment. Sweet, naïve, jubilant, hopeful, and just really fucking exciting, it’s the defining song that so perfectly sums up what Viola Beach were, are, and will always be about.

And she said that together we could take on the world // And she told me that I’ll never find another girl like her // And she said that together we could do anything // And she told me that she loves a boy who knows how to sing, so I learnt how to sing”.

Thanks for learning how to sing, boys.

About The Author

Mark Riley

Always pick the Fire starter-Pokemon.