Viola Beach’s name will always be synonymous with tragedy, but at least now we have a document of who this band were
Preston 28 February 1980
Back in the days before PlayStations, superclubs, hydroponic skunk and snowboarder chic, a subset of British youth suffered from a primitive neurological condition known as 'alienation'....
If the somewhat legendary Manchester band's singer, Ian Curtis, had been born a few years later he'd probably be jetting off to Ibiza this week to get on one, on the decks. Less 'Transmission' and more Manumission. As it is, 19 years after he hanged himself at the band's creative peak, Factory have lobbed this live set out seemingly for the sake of it.
Fac man Tony Wilson's sleevenotes set out the grand claim that this is a footnote to history, which might sound a bit pompous to anyone new to the band or the oldies who haven't listened for years. Plough into the raw, chaotic, spellbinding innards, however, and it's hard not to be blown away by the band's dark'n'primal power.
The moments of light relief, however, only serve to highlight the bleak exhilaration of songs like 'Twenty Four Hours', 'She's Lost Control' and 'The Eternal'. Sure, for 'Heart And Soul' Curtis sounds temporarily like a blind-drunk Elvis impersonator. But the versions of 'Shadowplay' and 'Transmission' are breathtaking stills of one of the century's most vivid poets burning up onstage.
What's particularly striking, listening back, is how little regard the band had for the surrounding post-punk genres or for audience/playlist/record company pleasing. The '90s diseases of genre obeisance and second guessing the market are totally absent here. At a shitty gig in Preston, Joy Division were visiting places previously thought to be the exclusive preserve of classical composers.
Every new band should hear this. Come on, die fiery.
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