As U2 are set to release their fourteenth studio album, Songs of Experience, later this autumn, it’s time to ask the question, “Who is Dublin’s next great band?” Is there a band out there that possesses the same energy and thoughtful songwriting of U2’s youthful days, when records like Boy, War, and The Joshua Tree were part of political and social movements? In Otherkin, the Fair City has found its heir apparent, and their debut album, OK, is an old-fashion rocker.
At 12 songs in a crisp 39 minutes, OK is a relentless and furious record that recalls the garage-rock of the late ’90s with splashes of ’70s punk. And like the music of those times, Otherkin aren’t holding back the punches, targeting everyone and everything. Heck, their mantra is:
“We want our records to be punchy, lean and blazing. Straight in, no kissing.”
This describes OK to a tee, as there isn’t a gushy moment on the record. The album opens with the adrenaline-rushing “Treat Me So Bad”. Explosive guitars and rhythms welcome us, and front man Luke Reilly’s vocals blast through the speakers. He sets his sights on a person – could be a parent, an ex, a friend – and openly questions his motivations for abusing people. The anthemic duo of “Come On, Hello” and “Aye Aye” offer a call to action for today’s youth. On the former, Reilly asks, “Do it again. Are you in on the joke or am I the protest vote?”
Otherkin reach their sonic and lyrical heights on the back-to-back juggernauts, “I Was Born” and “React”. “I was born, and I will die”, sings Reilly on the former, recognizing that life is precious so best to live it to its fullest. The latter is an all-out party condensed into a fiery 187 seconds. However, “React”, is no ordinary rocker – it is a protest song. “Are you going to resist?, asks Reilly as he attacks world leaders for their divisive ways.
“Yeah, I Know” is another exuberant and boisterous track. The sounds of U2, Ramones, and Arctic Monkeys are all rolled up on this song that calls on all of us to let go and be free. If Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is to be remade, this tune would be the perfect track for when Bueller first takes off in his convertible. Heavy-set guitars fill “Enabler”, giving the track a darker and more menacing quality. Reilly’s lyrics, too, are stark, as he addresses how obsession can lead to anguish and the infliction of pain.
A euphoric punk mentality circulates in “Bad Advice”. For just over two minutes, the band fires blistering guitar riff after riff while rifling off head-smashing, sweat-inducing rhythms. The wordplay is equally fast, fiery, and unpretentious. But listen carefully and this song isn’t an anti-establishment number or one celebrating youthful exuberance. Rather, it sounds like an offer to someone to take a chance with them. To commence a new journey into the unknown but to somewhere and something exciting and promising.
In a way, this offer is to the world, and it comes at just the right time. As we witness one Dublin band slowly fade into the sunset, a new one is ready to assume their throne, and Otherkin are more than OK to wave the Irish rock flag. For that matter, it would not surprise us if ten years from now the popularity of Luke Reilly (vocals/guitar), Conor Wynne (guitar), David Anthony (bass), and Rob Summons (drums) reached the heights of U2. OK is the start of the process to the band’s path to stardom.
Otherkin are currently on a massive European tour. Dates and information can be found here.
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