On February 13th 2016, the music world mourned.
Not for David Bowie, whose passing brought not just music but seemingly the world to a standstill. Not for Lemmy Kilmister, the former Motorhead singer who died of cancer in December, leaving his millions of fans devastated.
No, the music world mourned for Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe, Jack Dakin, better known as Viola Beach, and their manager Craig Tarry, who all tragically lost their lives in a car accident after performing at the ‘Where’s The Music? Festival’ in Sweden the evening before. Tributes poured in, with the band having played support slots for bands such as The Courteeners and a slot at the Reading and Leeds Festival in 2015, with a repeat performance having been in the pipeline for this year’s festival before tragedy intervened.
A few months after their passing, what is seen as their debut record was released posthumously to the public, featuring previously released singles ‘Swings and Waterslides’ and ‘Boys that Sing’, a collection of songs already recorded and demos of other songs in the pipeline. The fact that this album reached number 1 in the charts in an age where bands of similar stature to Viola Beach go largely under the radar was a credit to the British people and a truly magnificent tribute to the band’s memory. To analyse the album properly is, naturally, very difficult. Both singles were impressive but parts of the album are flawed, the songs begin to sound a bit samey, basic and generic. But the reason it is impossible to critically analyse it is because this should never have been an album. This should have been the first stage in writing enough songs that they believed good enough to release, as they attempted to, to quote one of their own lyrics, ‘take on the world’. This should not have been it. Is it the best album ever? No. Is it a work in progress? Absolutely. Would they have, to coin the common phrase, ‘made it’?. Maybe. The true tragedy is that we will never know, beyond the success of the two singles they released, and the understandable massive posthumous commercial success. Rest in peace Viola Beach, and may they be remembered for the right reasons. Not for producing an album of flawless outstanding music but of raw enthusiasm, a sprinkling of talent and an example of the freedom of youth.