FIVE ALBUMS WITH COBRA: MIKE O’LEARY FROM WE ARE THE MOVIES
Words: Ray Cobra//Photograph: Tyler Sheehy
If you follow me on social media or Tuned Up for that matter then you should be familiar with the Columbus, OH pop-punk band, We Are the Movies. And if not, shame on you. LOL!!!! Just kidding. This is a band we/I have covered religiously since I first saw them back in 2016 at Spacebar. Man, that was a fun show. Anyways, over the past few years, this is a band that has become like family, and it just makes sense to do Five Albums with Cobra with a member. And that lucky member is lead guitarist/vocalist, Mike O’Leary.
When it comes to talking about music, Mike is one of my favorite people to chat with. Simply because the paths that led us both here are so similar. And the passion and heart I hear in his voice when talking about the music he loves is unmatched. This also can be seen when he is on stage or in the pit. I know he could have gone with any number of albums for this piece, but I can honestly say these are all five albums I would expect him to choose. So here we go: Five Albums with Cobra presents Mike O’Leary from We Are the Movies.
Five Albums – Quarantine edition
Thrice – The Artist in the Ambulance
I first heard this album when I was in a weird place in my life—not a lot of direction, things not making much sense, not quite sure what my purpose was. I knew I wanted to make music, but hadn’t quite found my voice yet, not exactly sure how to effectively express all the big feelings I had bubbling under the surface from my oppressively conservative upbringing. The Artist in the Ambulance was one of the first albums I ever heard where I realized you could write heavy, emotional music that was just as hopeful and joyful as it was angry. As a bonus, I found my singing voice as I sang and screamed along in the car—Dustin’s vocal range is the same as mine.
Since we’re in this quarantine, I find myself listening to these songs again, since the feelings of confusion and uncertainty are very similar. It’s reminding me that I’m having a normal response to an abnormal situation, and to be kind to myself as I navigate my way through. Also, “Silhouette” is one of my all-time favorite songs.
Moving Mountains – Waves
I love all of Moving Mountains’ records, but this is the album of theirs that hits me hardest. It’s where I wish Thrice would have gone after The Alchemy Index—lots of soaring post-rock arrangements over soft-to-roaring dynamic vocals. It’s aggressive and beautiful and moody and hopeful… just like me! (wink emoji) I’ve been listening to this during quarantine because it’s easy to feel claustrophobic when you’re constantly in a space that you can’t leave, and things feel out of control. This record is so sonically expansive that I know I can put it on when I’m overwhelmed and feel like I have the space to take deep, full breaths again.
Glassjaw – Worship and Tribute
Speaking of incredible vocalists, I dare anyone to think of a better one than Daryl Palumbo (short of maybe Freddie Mercury). How he manages to waver between the clean and the guttural still inspires me to this day. This album sticks out to me because it’s a departure from the pure rage (*ahem* and misogyny) of the first record and gets more philosophical without losing any edge. Every song is interesting. The songs all have a pop sensibility but hit so hard. Standout tracks for me during quarantine are “tip your bartender” (obviously), “cosmopolitan bloodloss” (social anxiety), and “Radio Cambodia” (our leaders are stupid).
Touche Amore – Stage Four
I’ve been scared during this quarantine for many reasons, one of which is for my friends and family who are immune-compromised or just flat-out ignoring the quarantine rules. I am scared of losing people I care about. Quarantine has forced me to differentiate between what I can and cannot control and to redirect my energy into what’s within that ability to control. This album is all about that process. It’s palpable in the lyrics and music arrangements. So much anxiety, despair, and grief, but there’s also so much growth and love and hope. I cry a little when I listen to this record, especially when I get to “displacement.” It’s not a completely sad cry—it’s one that reminds me that I’m alive and how important it is for me to release these big feelings.
IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
I think the album title says it all, honestly. In a time (even before the quarantine) where it felt like we were all in the Darkest Timeline, one of the most powerful things we can do to combat the darkness is to find joy despite it. Part of that joy is yelling a big “fuck you” to those institutions that profit from hurting others, whether it’s toxic masculinity or racism or homophobia. Part of it is also celebrating your friends, your mental and emotional health, the people you love, and your own sense of purpose. I just love the image I got the first time I saw IDLES live—a bunch of blue-collar tough guys going nuts onstage and unapologetically singing about super-progressive and empowering topics. This band and this album inspire me more than I can adequately explain. I listen to this, and I just want to throw myself into a mosh pit with all my friends and give them big sweaty hugs.
And you can bet your ass that’ll be one of the first things I do when this is all over.