Viola Beach, the young band who were tragically killed in a car crash in Sweden earlier this year, posthumously release their debut album today.
The four members of the Warrington group – Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe, and Jack Dakin – died along with their manager Craig Tarry in February, and their heartbreaking story led to worldwide tributes.
Today (July 29) marks the release of their self-titled debut, a nine-track collection of songs that includes the single ‘Boys That Sing’, as well as a BBC session recorded just months before the band’s untimely end.
Tributes have poured in in the five months since the sad news.
A particular highlight came from Coldplay, who played ‘Boys That Sing’ as part of their Glastonbury headlining set, effectively allowing the young band to headline the festival with their song for a brief moment.
“We’re going to create Viola Beach’s alternative future for them and let them play Glastonbury for a song,” Chris Martin said.
There was also the campaign to get the band’s single ‘Swings & Waterslides’ to Number 1 in the immediate aftermath of the tragic news.
Campaigns like this are not uncommon, but what was notable was the string of big names that lent their support to the cause, including Kasabian and The Stone Roses.
— The Stone Roses (@thestoneroses) February 16, 2016
— KasabianHQ (@KasabianHQ) February 16, 2016
The critics’ reaction
Released on the band’s own Fuller Beans Records label, the debut LP is obviously a huge talking point among this week’s big releases (and you can listen to it in full at the bottom of this page). But how have critics been taking to it?
Many speak of the unavoidable sense of tragedy around the album, including the NME’s Barry Nicholson, who writes:
“It’s tempered by the knowledge that this band were barely even getting started. Viola Beach is not the debut album they would have made, but it’s the only legacy they’ll leave; you’re glad that it exists but, at the same time, you wish it didn’t have to.
“Then you actually listen to it, and what you’re struck by isn’t the sadness of the story, or the potential that will go unfulfilled, but the energy and exuberance that so obviously went into making it. Viola Beach is an album that, against all odds, leaves you with a smile on your face.”
“The Warrington quartet was clearly in the process of defining their own sound through the precise, itchy East African-style guitar figures laced by River Reeves and Leonard through the likes of ‘Like A Fool’ and ‘Really Wanna Call’, both examples of their engaging knack for delivering wan, lovelorn songs with ebullient charm.”
The record, while not particularly groundbreaking and wearing its influences firmly on its sleeves, is charming enough to blaze its own trail.
The circumstances of its release are obviously going to influence people’s perceptions, but it seems that even if Viola Beach were still going today, we’d be talking about them with just as much enthusiasm.
The record is the best legacy the band could have left, and while you get the impression a full record at a later stage in their career would have been far more polished, this patchwork collections of songs deserves to be heard.
The new video
But it’s not just about the release day reviews pouring in.
To celebrate the release of the album, you can watch a brand new video for single ‘Boys That Sing’.
Combining footage from the band’s BBC session with animation, it’s a video that’s full of hope and optimism, as splashes of colour permeate its stark black and white visuals.
Viola Beach’s debut album will no doubt make a considerable dent on the charts come next week’s countdown, with music fans supporting the work of a group of friends who were cruelly stopped in their tracks while doing what they loved the most.
Fans pay tribute
Of course, Viola Beach’s debut has been lighting up social media, with many fans offering their own takes.
I'm really enjoying the Viola Beach album, but it's so sad that they will never be able to experience their own success.
— Kate Goodrum (@cr4yola) July 29, 2016
i'm trying to listen to viola beach without getting sad and it's proving really hard
— ya girl jess (@jessieleawynn) July 29, 2016
— PRAY FOR HAYES (@_nhcmia) July 29, 2016
You can listen to Viola Beach’s self-titled debut album on Spotify below, or buy the album from iTunes: