REVIEW: Viola Beach by Viola Beach

This is a hard one to write, that sentiment is felt across all press over the last day or so attempting to write a debut record review under tragic circumstances like this. However, I’ve taken the position and representing Sounds From Nowhere at a whole, to write this review like I would any other, the way I intended to before February 13th. 

Viola Beach, the quickly rising indie four-piece for Warrington, were going to become one of the Liverpool scene’s shining stars by their own talent and power. Ever since self-releasing their lead single “Swings & Waterslides” back in 2015, the band have gained press and showings on a mainstream level, from the single being added to BBC Radio 1’s Playlist to playing Introducing Stages at several major festivals.

The album opens with the lead single, “Swings & Waterslides”, which no matter how the track is about a broken relationship it somehow strikes a smile with the way it’s portrayed. The songs bring a happy feel to them, that leads from the opening to the second track “Like A Fool”. With songs that’d fit in with the scene of acts like Two Door Cinema Club, and city counterparts The Wombats, the act seems to rub off with it’s influences, whether they’d agree to them or not.

“Go Outside” is an early standout, a pure joyous pop song, pumped with the quick-fire chorus by vocalist Kris Leonard. It’s nice, feels perfect for any summer playlists as in-whole the album would. Viola Beach feels like a band built without any bad feelings, like a surf band of the sixties without any of the surf, just the idealism.

“Cherry Vimto” is a wonderful balance of music and vocals, with a guitar riff-drum combo carried by River Reeves (guitar) and Jack Dakin (drums) matching the vocal energy of Leonard. “Really Wanna Call” shows traces of what Viola Beach could become, the blueprints to what their style could have been, with Leonard‘s tight vocal delivery and the band’s ebullient approach.

“Call You Up” strikes a laidback approach, with the echoey guitar laid behind Leonard‘s vocals, which while the verse vocals and accompanying lyrics are presented in a format akin to Alex Turner on Arctic MonkeysAM (Domino, 2013), the chorus seems to be less throughout. Similarly, the song is placed awkwardly on the record itself, it could have benefited within order closer towards “Go Outside” and “Cherry Vimto”, maybe in between the two.

After the BBC Session version of “Get To Dancing”, another early song from the quartet “Boys That Sing” ends the album. “Boys That Sing” is simplistic in all efforts, which at this point in the album is all one would want, it gives more of a fun feeling rather than a cliche one, unlike many bands attempting the whole cute-indie-pop image.

While the album drags towards the end, overall it doesn’t seem like a bad effort albeit plagued by tragic endings, the production seems like cleaned up demos (and likely is) yet still sounds stylistic. However, there is one major key missing from the album and the band’s sound, their own sound. The record gives off the feeling of bands, like that “Swings & Waterslides” is what Coldplay should sound like, how vocally similar in its unorthodox manner that Leonard sounds to Pete Doherty with “Go Outside”.

The primary issue with the album is it doesn’t offer what Viola Beach wanted to sound like, their individual style and approach. Which sadly, in this case, would follow in the sophomore attempt which won’t ever happen.



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