July 29 2016 (Fuller Beans Records)
Words: Alison Mack
Any sudden death comes as a shock, particularly in the case of the up and coming Warrington band Viola Beach, when their tragic deaths in a car crash in Sweden in February wiped out the band as a whole.
Prior to their deaths, Viola Beach had received some healthy plaudits for their output to date and their live shows. But let's be honest here and not let this wave of sympathy that seems to have taken over in the last five month totally cloud our judgement. They were not the Second Coming; at the stage they were at was promising at best, but still raw and ungrounded and still not fully developed in sound.
This posthumous album is made up of nine tracks which include the two singles, 'Swings & Waterslides', 'Boys That Sing', plus recordings of others that presumably were to first see light of day on an EP. Because there was never to be time to improve on these tracks, musically the work is often at variance; a mix of youthful, exuberant charm and a snapshot of where four young men were at at a point in their lives, rather than a cohesive and sharply produced sum of their wares in their finished state.
Opening track 'Swings & Waterslides' is the song that first saw them brought to public attention, with Kris Leonard delivering the rap-style vocal over hooks and catchy rhythm that slips meaningfully through the ears. Similarly, the jangly guitars of 'Boys That Sing', the beachy groove of 'Cherry Vimto', and the tropical-esque riffs of 'Like A Fool' are engaging. On the other hand, 'Really Wanna Call' is pleasant enough, but really no more than a filler, while 'Drunk' as its title implies, swirls its hooks around sinking pints and the "lads".
Viola Beach had a way with uplifting songs that focussed on chiming grooves and infectious, sunny-vibed melodies. But, they would also no doubt have gone on to improve their sound and songwriting abilities ('Boys That Sing' using a “wino"/ “rhino” couplet, being a point in hand), had fate allowed.