This Viola Beach posthumous album is a review I’ve struggled with for a few weeks. How do you review a debut album that also happens, by way of terrible circumstances, to be a final album? What do you say about the talent of a (by all accounts) joyful, warm group of artists who came on to the scene just as quickly as they left it with something as impressive as this album? When I first heard “Swings and Waterslides” last year, I fully expected to be celebrating a big album release from Viola Beach at some point this year, but I obviously never expected these to be the circumstances under which the album was celebrated. The good news is, if there’s anything to be said about this album, it’s that the members of Viola Beach really left us with something special.
Those familiar with the name will warmly recognize “Swings and Waterslides”, the mammoth of a summer song Viola Beach first introduced themselves with. Despite the situation of what materialized from its release to now, the song still holds its warm vibe, and takes familiar listeners back to the first time they heard it.
“Like a Fool” carries the feeling from “Swings and Waterslides” and quickly establishes a Viola Beach standby: ear worm guitar work in the verses. So many songs on this album feature this kind of guitar work, and Kris Leonard’s vocals fit the vibe of this sound like a glove. “Go Outside” sits as my personal favorite among new tracks from the album for that very reason, as the catchy guitar riff is matched by the cadence of the vocals in the verse on the way to one of the group’s more different sounding choruses. Other pre-released standouts like “Boys That Sing” and “Cherry Vimto” gain a deeper sort of post release understanding when packaged together with the rest of the “new” tracks, and bring an unexpected feeling of cohesion to a project that must not have been entirely ready for release.
As a listener, we are left wondering just how much of the album was “finished”, or how many of these songs were entirely meant for an album with the untimely passing of the group and their manager, but it is just that uncertainty that adds tremendously to the overall feeling. Songs like “Get To Dancing”, which is marked as a BBC session, have a raw sound to them that shows us as listeners the truest sound of Viola Beach: uptempo, catchy instrumentals with lyrics just as standout as their presenter’s captivating voice. This will be how Viola Beach is remembered- as an unquestionably sky-high talented group deterred only by tragic circumstances. In a story marked by bad news, the silver lining is that the members of Viola Beach can live on forever through this collection of songs, a collection I feel the drive to recommend more highly than anything I’ve ever recommended on this site or any other. RIP.