Thursday, 9 June 2016

Top Tens: Declan O'Reilly of Only Strangers Top Ten Punk Rock Influences


Picking out 10 punk influences over a span of about 20 years of listening to punk music is a ridiculously tough task. No doubt I’ll have left out a ruck of bands that could easily have featured. I’ve also just featured bands that inspired me to play punk and so left out some of my favourite artists of all time like Springsteen, Talking Heads, Roy Orbison etc. In no particular order, here goes

10. Stiff Little Fingers
This is the first band I picked out in regards to influences, but it’s one of many that I could have chosen that were responsible for getting me in to punk. In 1995 at the age of 10, I travelled up to Roker Park in Sunderland to watch Stoke with my older brother (Stoke lost 1-0 and I got a bollocking for sneaking off for the day from my folks). The only tape in the car was “The best punk album in the world ever” and I was introduced to all the “hits” of 70’s punk and new wave for probably the first time. Stiff Little Fingers really stood out though. The early albums in particular are ridiculously raw and full of vitriol, yet still carry awesome melodies and hooks. Even now, Jake Burns’ vocal style in particular is a huge influence.

9. Rancid

Growing up and finding out about the new wave of American punk was also huge. You’d struggle to find people into rock music in the 90’s who didn’t own copies of Offsprings’ Smash, Green Day’s Dookie and my favourite by far of that era, Rancid’s “And Out Come The Wolves”. Between that album and “Let’s Go!”, which came out previously, punk had a new sound and influenced so many bands that were starting out at the time and was probably a big influence on me picking up a guitar and learning ska and power-chords. It also helped me to find out about some of the older bands from that California scene such as Operation Ivy who were massively influential in starting up our first band.

8. Slapstick
These guys were just the dons of ska and punk music and you can see from the bands that all the members formed afterwards that they were massively full of raw talent. The 25 tracks they put on to a comp CD were a mix of fast punk with horns, quick ska, anthemic choruses and full of hectic energy. Probably my favourite ska punk band of all time and a huge influence on our previous band “Sense of Urgency”.

7. Bomb The Music Industry
When a few of us lived in a bit of a party house, these were rarely off the speakers. It was a bit of a toss-up between BTMI and Big D for that late night accolade. Bomb the Music Industry mixed drum machine loops with all over the place hooks and frantic vocals and brilliant lyrical content dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up as a young adult and getting hammered. So it was pretty identifiable music as well. In my opinion the best ska band from the 2000’s onwards but the range of genres they covered was also pretty diverse.

6. No Use for a Name
The Fat Wreck Chord comps were a staple in everyones collection and had so many awesome bands on. I could find reasons why loads of those bands are massive influences. Good Riddance, Lagwagon and Avail to name a few are all immense bands. No Use would be my pick of the bunch though. Awesome melodies and vocals and that slide guitar sound which was perfectly produced. “More Betterness” was played within in an inch of its life in my brother’s car on the way to school and college.

5. The Ramones
A band that you’d expect to find on anyone’s list but I just couldn’t leave them out. I actually preferred them when they went pretty bubblegum pop punk under the production of Phil Spectre, but I’d happily listen to any Ramones CD, any time (Pleasant Dreams being my pick of all their releases). It’s just glorious foot tapping punk rock. Joey Ramone knew how to write a classic love song too and Pet Sematary is boss.

4. Alkaline Trio
Another band that have been a huge influence since school and college. Like Lawrence Arms (who I’ve ended up kicking out of the top 10) they have great dual vocals that are a huge influence on our band, Only Strangers, and an eclectic catalogue spanning years. Obviously there’s going to be a few misses due to the large input of stuff they put out, but they are a real melodic, darker sounding , emotional band, without slipping into the trap of sounding like a whiney pop punk band.

3. Jawbreaker
This is a band I was pretty late on hearing and so wasn’t really aware of all the selling out nonsense and fans hating/turning their back on the band when they released and played the album “Dear You”. The sound went from extremely raw to polished on a major label and I love all of it for different reasons. Incredible and mature lyric writing for such a young band and the dischord sound in a lot of the stuff is just perfect. All round beautiful tunes.

2. Leatherface
I always kind of see Leatherface as the UK counterpart to Jawbreaker. That’s probably more down to how much I love the two bands, rather than them sounding really similar to each other. Like Jawbreaker, their style changed over the years, arguably reaching their pinnacle with the legendary album “Mush”, and there’s so much stuff to get stuck in to. I’m not going to say I love all of it but when it hits, this band was something ridiculously special. Lyrically brilliant,with two guitars intertwining beautifully and a powerhouse of a voice from Frankie Stubbs. The last album “The Stormy Petrel” was also a belter.

1. The Clash
Not much needs to be said about The Clash: angry punk at its finest and responsible for the masterpiece of an album “London Calling”. “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” could be my favourite ska/punk song of all time both sound wise and lyrically. Just perfect and as relevant today as it was back then. I even really like “Sandinista”, which is a bit of a divisive CD for a lot of fans. It showed also that the band were willing to step out of their comfort zone and do something different. A timeless band that would fit in any era and proof that you don’t have to be technically gifted musicians to write great music.

Very Honourable Mentions:- Misfits, Sublime, Weezer, Lawrence Arms, Pennywise, Bigwig, No Doubt, Symposium, Choking Victim, Catch 22, Lagwagon, The Wedding Present.

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