Viola Beach are a 4-piece band that hailed from Warrington near Manchester. They set out into the music industry with a goal, to put their town on the map and encourage others to join in. After a reshuffle of band members in early 2015, they released ‘Swings And Waterslides’ as a single and were quickly recognised by the BBC, who put the band on the introducing stage at the 2015 Reading and Leeds festivals. The band had just been signed onto Communion records, the same label as Ben Howard and Catfish & The Bottlemen and were about to embark on their first tour of the world. That was until news came out that while performing in Sweden, the band and their manager Craig tragically died in a car accident, a moment which made the British music industry stand still in horror. After an appeal from major artists such as Liam Gallagher, The Courteeners and The Stone Roses, ‘Swings And Waterslides’ made it into the charts and became recognisable nationwide. Soon after, during Coldplay’s Glastonbury performance, the band paid tribute to Viola Beach by performing their next single ‘Boys That Sing’ and “letting them headline Glastonbury for a song.” The album has now followed and is lined up to be a posthumous number one album, this is what I make of it.
Swings And Waterslides – 9.5/10
The song which will always make me full of emotion, it’s just stunning. This is the single that was released before their death but became recognisable on a widespread level after they were tragically taken from us and it soared up the charts into the top 10 and rightfully so. It’s a quirky, energetic song all about a girl who makes everything feel alright in Kris’ life and the lyricism is brilliant. The summer imagery he uses is inventive and unique, using a phrase like “Swings and Waterslides” is something most artists haven’t ventured into. I absolutely love the guitar riff on this song it’s just so reminiscent of those bands who were at the forefront of the indie revival, the likes of Vampire Weekend, The Wombats and Two Door Cinema Club. It’s just such an upbeat and happy song, it’s one which I will be blasting out all summer long and I hope you are too. My argument with this song has always been this, if a band with the fame and popularity of perhaps The Wombats had released this song, it would have been a whirlwind stir, much like when they released Let’s Dance To Joy Division, I see it as being that good. It’s an absolutely brilliant song regardless of who released it, whether it be the biggest band ever to walk the earth or a band of relatively limited success and recognition, that much doesn’t change the quality of the song itself which, as I said, is colossal.
Like A Fool – 8.5/10
Once again, this guitar riff is infectious, River was just an absolutely phenomenal guitarist and made the whole thing sound so much more complete. The drumming also needs some recognition here in its crisp delivery and fast pace in that transitional phase between chorus and verse so all praise to Jack for that and making a very cool drum beat. The song itself is exactly that, cool, modern and relevant to today’s music scene whilst at the same time being slightly different to what we usually hear and you feel it slots in brilliantly to that current indie gap we have in the charts alongside the likes of Bastille and Two Door Cinema Club who are making their returns. I love the switch up on this song as it moves from that steady paced verse with Kris’ vocals seeming fairly isolated along with Tom’s bass tones to a rip up of energy in the chorus and a real distinct and clear change in the vocals as he really shows off his range. Another great song, snappy, to the point and exactly what this industry needed, a bit of buzz.
Go Outside – 8/10
Summer. That’s the only word that comes to mind with this song, it’s the sort of thing you’ll play on the beach with friends or at a barbecue, it’s just as feel good as it gets. Kris’ raspy vocals on this song work so well and are brilliant at all points of the song, whether it be the raw parts of the verses, the quicker paces of the chorus or the higher notes on the bridge. It spreads the right message and has a lovely vibe to it of wanting to go outside and see the world while the sun is shining, it’s something we could all do with listening to and doing ourselves, especially in this country of limited sunshine. Once again, it’s a blinding song with a great, upbeat sound to it and I can’t get enough of it.
Cherry Vimto – 6/10
What is apparent about Viola Beach as a band is that during their days of struggling to get signed they were in need of a guitarist to suit their sound and almost be the fronting sound of the band, that fact has never been more apparent than on this song, and boy did they find the right one in River. He was immensely talented and fit like a glove to the band’s vibe and propelled their sound massively. This is a more melancholy song but still has those typical elements that the band were going for with those phases of toe tapping drum beats and guitar chords. Again the lyricism is inventive and original, Kris had the ability to mix up his lyrics and make them unlike the norm if you will. Using terms such as “bittersweet” when describing this girl but wanting her to stay which does seem to be a theme of this album, a fight to keep this girl on his side. It’s probably, in my opinion, the weakest song on the collection but that doesn’t take anything away from individual talent or say that the next person won’t like it, it’s all just down to personal preference.
Drunk – 6.5/10
The mysterious faded start to this song left you on a cliff face wondering what was going to come out of it and what did unveil was something fantastic. Another smooth drum beat with amplified guitar notes which echo before fading away and it’s an effect which works really well in my opinion. A great love song with a much more hard sound to it, especially in the bridge which sounds a lot more indie rock than the soft pop sound they were originally producing. The lyrics are strong willed and hold a modern time to which many young people can relate to. Good song again which warrants it’s place on this album.
Really Wanna Call – 7/10
I really like the ability Kris has to change up his voice from song to song, he ensured that he had depth and variety every time he sang into that microphone. This song is probably the greatest example of him changing it up as he becomes a bit sharper and local with his tones, perhaps sticking to his Warrington roots and stripping it back to basics. The lyrics themselves are heavily love based and you feel they come straight from his heart he is begging her to stay with him and let him show her the love he has to give. I really like the way they can have that positive, upbeat drum and guitar sound while singing about things which could otherwise be perceived as quite bleak and desperate, as the lyrics in most of these songs lean towards him striving to keep this girl on his side.
Call You Up – 7.5/10
Without doubt the softest song on the album which gives the band a chance to demonstrate their more heart-aching side and also their ability to make a great indie love song. These lyrics are a prime example of this as they are really quite heart breaking as we see a fragility and a plea to this girl to give him a chance. The instruments are also very subtle which is unlike any other song on this album, despite the subtleness, however they are still crucial and give off a nice sound, particularly the drums which seem to lead the way in terms of instruments. The song does end in a nice note however as the last line of the chorus states “I know we will be alright in the end” which is almost a reward for his persistence and showing this girl how much she means to him. A really nice listen and something very different to what they have provided on this collection, it’s a great demonstration of variety.
Get To Dancing (Live BBC Session) – 7.5/10
A live recording from the BBC Maida Vale sessions they did in the autumn of 2015, this song has that raw, stripped back live sound that I love from bands. It’s almost an imperfect perfection that you rarely find in a studio recorded remastered song. Kris’ raspy vocals make this song as he really gives it his all on this funky song which really suits the title, it’ll make people want to move a bit and enjoy themselves. The lyrics are very normal life and are scenarios that most people around those teenage adolescent years have gone through regarding going to parties and having love affairs with people after drunken nights. The drum crashes towards the end of this song are brilliant and show Tom’s talent when sat behind his set. It’s another cool song which will be going on my playlists for sure.
Boys That Sing – 10/10
I, much like so many others, became aware of this song when Coldplay performed it as a tribute during their Glastonbury headline set. I remember hearing it and thinking “wow, how had I never heard of these before the awful news?” The whole song just clicked for me and brought me back to my youth and starting to grow and develop my own musical opinion and listening to some of my first artists, the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, Razorlight and then later on moving on to Vampire Weekend and Bombay Bicycle Club. This brought all those memories flooding back and gave me that same feeling I felt when I first heard ‘Last Nite’ by The Strokes or when I heard ‘A-Punk’ for the first time, those happy moments filled with upbeat and joyous music played the way it should be. Basically, this song is just brilliant, I’m sure you’ve all heard it already but if not please listen to it, an absolute pleasure to listen to and I’m sure if you like similar music to me, it’ll bring the same feeling to you too. Anyway, the song itself, the drum beat is crisp, cool and catchy in it’s delivery before the typically summery vibe of River’s guitar riff. Kris’ lyrics flow very well and have a strong rhyme structure to them. The chorus is definitely the highlight of this song, I love the way it just explodes into life and Kris sings about all these things the girl has said to him. Once again th transitional phases are non existent and I like that, it’s an explosion of life and then a cool and chilled out vibe. The best song of this collection and one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.
Overall – 7.5/10
I think what truly saddens me the most about Viola Beach is this, you can tell they’re thoroughly enjoying playing and performing and that’s what makes it all the more tragic that these four delightful and positive lads are no longer with us. A band full of joy, positivity and confidence in themselves in order to succeed, it’s a crying shame we won’t get to hear any more of their music. Despite this, what we have here is a very good album with very good songs which can be enjoyed for a lifetime, I’m so very grateful to the families of the band for releasing this work to the public and showing us all how talented they were. So Kris, River, Jack, Tom and your manager Craig, congratulations on this, a brilliant project and something that I’m sure you were immensely proud of until the very end.