The youthful Warrington swagger evident on this album is reminiscent of all the great melodies that ever once swirled out of the UK’s north. Unconsciously steeped in all of them, Viola Beach was the latest in a long line of young bands who believed they could get a heedless world to listen up. And for a brief, tantalising while they did just that.
Before their untimely deaths in Sweden earlier this, they managed to lay down what would be their first and final album. Irrepressible and exuberant on tracks like ‘Swings And Waterslides’ and the BBC session ‘Get To Dancing’, this was a band that had found its feet early. They were looked after in the studio as well as ‘Like A Fool’ attests, their accomplished playing sharpened by a considerate production. On the tunes ‘Go Outside’, ‘Cherry Vimto’ and ‘Drunk’, they wrote and recorded what mattered to them in the moment. There’s an immediacy to these songs, a momentum carrying them out of the studio and up and away.
They looked like a band that had the energy and wherewithal to withstand the white water rapids of the industry. They were young enough to be impervious to criticism and possessed in abundance the key ingredient: a desire to make music. They seemed a band of resolve and if this, their only album, is an accurate measure of this gang of four’s moxie, then it can stand for all time as one of the most bittersweet of entries into the pantheon of pop.
The final track, ‘Boys That Sing’, opens with good barbed humour as Kris Leonard calls out that “she’s a rhino, she’s a wino”. But perhaps they should be best remembered for the ghostly ‘Call You Up’, where Leonard’s voice cries out the words “Slipping away at the end of the day into dreams of the two of us running away”.
A mere nine tracks are what they left behind for us to peruse at our leisure. They’ve sidestepped Glastonbury, the Brits, the Grammys and every accolade they may have managed to attain if fate had decreed something else for them. Who knows what might have been. With their manager, united forevermore in death, perhaps only these four lads know the answer to that.
Viola Beach is released on 29th August via Fuller Beans Records.