This review originally appeared on The Arts Desk.
It was somewhere around the third posthumous Jeff Buckley compilation that I realised that my love for an artist, and my completist nature, would never quite compensate for the general ickiness I felt about the nonconsensual release of their works in progress. It may not be the fairest of comparisons to draw – this collection of nine Viola Beach songs, released just five months after the deaths of the four bandmates and their manager in a car crash in Sweden, comes with the backing of their families and on the back of this weekend’s charity festival in their home town of Warrington. But there are some tracks here that, nestled between the band’s two singles and a vibrant, dynamic BBC session track, sound like pencil sketches. And that makes me far sadder than jangly indie rock has any right to.
Look, I’m not saying Viola Beach were ever going to change the world – “Boys That Sing”, the song of theirs that Coldplay covered on the main stage at Glastonbury last month, rhymes “rhino” and “wino” in its first two lines, for god’s sake (and yes, as unflattering as those descriptions sound, Kris Leonard was singing about a young lady he was rather taken with when he did so). I don’t expect the band would have been on my radar at this stage. Perhaps they never would have been. But with their premature deaths, Viola Beach became symbolic of the thousands of young bands across the country, living out of the back of a van and playing to half-empty rooms for the love of it, and for those moments when you catch somebody in the crowd dancing along, or mouthing the words.
The deft, danceable rhythms that punctuate “Swings and Waterslides” and “Cherry Vimto”, combined with Leonard’s Northern accent, make comparisons Spectrals or early Arctic Monkeys irresistible; and there’s a clear knack for a cheeky chorus on the likes of “Go Outside” and “Really Wanna Call” that’s the soundtrack to easy flirting and drinking cider in the park with your pals on a summer afternoon. But more than anything else, these songs make me want to switch off the laptop, head to my nearest small venue and fall in love all over again – and there’s probably no better legacy.