Album Review: Only Strangers (S/T)

Agonisingly good gruff, melodic punk rock with hooks aplenty. FFO: Hot Water Music, Iron Chic, Leatherface and Leagues Apart.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

One thing that punk rock needs is to be delivered with passion. It’s the passion that separates punk from guitar-based pop and stops bands sounding like Blink 182. Stoke-on-Trent 4-piece Only Strangers ooze passion from every pore on their debut full length album. Since their inception in 2010, the band have honed their craft with some independently released EPs and a split release with Liverpool’s Pardon Us, but it’s this album, on Manchester-based Horn And Hoof Records, that should and, I’m confident, will put them on the map.

Punk rock is a many hued genre, from the indecipherable noise of bands such as Chaos UK and Extreme Noise Terror, to Fugazi’s dub-infused grooves to Siouxsie And The Banshee’s gothic drama to NOFX’s nasal thrash. Only Strangers sit firmly in the middle ground with an excellent set of emotionally charged, high-energy punk rock songs. Taking their cue from punk rock Americana, Only Strangers are the UK’s answer to Hot Water Music. The similarity cannot be denied but does that matter? When a band releases as strong a bunch of songs as this, that bristles with a sense of urgency and energy as this does, then that is what counts. Let’s face it, if you’re going to be compared to another band it may as well be an awesome one. That said, beyond the quality of this release, Only Strangers show a huge amount of future potential and will continue to grow and develop into a world class band.

Only Strangers have their sound nailed. The guitars of Dec O’Reilly and Joe Hawthorne are raunchy and weave beautifully melodic lines around each other. The rhythm section of Adam Gater on bass and Paul Beard on drums maintain momentum and power with barely a pause for breath. Adam Gater and Dec O’Reilly take double duties on vocals; both possessed of an enviable gruffness. O’Reilly’s voice in particular brings to mind Chuck Ragan, but also the great Frankie Stubbs from Leatherface. All the constituent parts coalesce into a fantastic production that gives all the instruments and voices an equal share of the pie as it rams it down your throat!

It’s very easy for those looking into the punk scene to deride it as pointless, talentless three-chord noise but bands such as Only Strangers prove that there is a wealth of song writing talent in the genre that puts it right up there with some of the greats such as Springsteen, etc. Such is the quality of the song writing here that each song could probably be taken back to basics and be played on an acoustic, with just a voice to accompany it, and still sound brilliant. That is the key to a great tune.

Only Strangers need to do two things: they need to get a video for Saturday Night out there and in people’s ears, and they need to hit the road and play everywhere and anywhere. You, my reader friends, need to do two things: you need to buy this album and you need to go and see them live!

Only Stranger’s self titled debut album is out now on Horn & Hoof Records. You can buy it from their bandcamp, or at one of their upcoming shows:

Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more info.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

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