English rock band Viva Brother modernize Brit-pop and rock n’ roll, making it fresh, fun, and exciting in their debut album, ‘Famous First Words.’
Everyone remembers being fifteen; trying to find your style, your friends, your passions…no one says it enough, but being a young teenager was semi-exhausting. Like everyone else, I was in a transitional phase in life, trying to figure out the person I wanted to be, which not only included trying to figure out the things I wanted to accomplish or the boys I wanted to date (let’s be real), but the clothing I wanted to wear and the music I wanted to listen to. So, I did what any young girl does and spent my free-time poring through the pages of Teen Vogue, where I found English rock band Viva Brother.
In the issue in question, the writer was featuring their single “Darling Buds of May” off their debut album Famous First Words (released 8/1/2011). The song opens with a very Brit-pop, simplistic guitar riff, which becomes the underlying element of the song’s verses, as the vocals and other instrumental lines are layered on top.
Listen: Famous First Words – Viva Brother
Immediately, the song’s lyrics grab the attention of listeners, as lead vocalist Lee Newell sings, “I burnt the kitchen down, you told me ‘ooh,’ we’ve got to get this right, right now, uh oh oh.”
For any listener, the song is both intriguing yet familiar. While the story detailed in the song itself is a new one, the music itself is a new twist on something old, which makes listening to this song, fun. But listen to the rest of the album and you’ll find that that’s what Viva Brother does so well: they take a familiar sound and they modernize it, helping to open-up new audiences to Brit-pop and rock.
Watch: “Darling Buds of May” – Viva Brother
Take the album’s opening track, “New Year’s Day,” as an example. The opening guitar line has a classic, almost western feel to it, and it quickly drives the song into jangling keys, heavy bass and guitar, and a repetition of British “oh’s.”
I got a wish in my well
and it’s burning up a hole in my pocket
A hole in my pocket
Well, I’m feeling closer to hell
and it’s burning like a big space rocket
A big space rocket
The opening verse is dramatic, and the music in which it’s packed feels like classic rock n’ roll. But as the song moves toward the chorus, the music changes just enough to where it feels as though it’s soaring. The instrumental tracks go from being a driving force to an open space, before coming right back down into this classic sound we’re used to hearing when listening to rock music.
Other tracks off the album such as “Still Here” and “Electric Daydream” keep with the theme but add a movie-esque twist to it. While the album can sound great blasting trough your car’s speakers and open windows, these tracks also seem like they could be great candidates for indie movie soundtracks. There is a nostalgia within certain tracks that lend to helping them feel bigger than themselves, which allows for them to be used and appreciated in much broader contexts.
Watch: New Year’s Day – Viva Brother
But while the members of Viva Brother seem to be working with a sound many already know and love, their reviews tanked when the album was first released back in 2011. I can’t fully speak on why that would be, but I can say this much: I don’t agree with the negative reviews, and I think the sound is one that still holds up today, seven years later. Viva Brother use what they know to make something new, and it’s definitely worth getting into.
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📸 © Victor Frankowski