Back in ’94, I supplemented my full-time income by working part-time in the coolest job I ever had—that of a clerk at the late, lamented Record Revolution, in Hummelstown, PA. To be honest, there was little “income” that came from the job—I merely worked part-time hours in order to be able to purchase music at dealer cost. Every cent I earned there (by stocking records, working the register, making suggestions to customers, and putting a beat-down on teenaged shoplifters) went back into my record collection. I probably—no, scratch that, I definitely—went into the red in my brief tenure there. Still, for a drooling fanatic like myself, it was a little slice o’ heaven.
I recall stocking a record by Therapy? (yes, question mark included—I’m sure they’re tired of answering that question) whose cover depicted a naked man with his head in a garbage can, a scene I vaguely recall occurring in front of me at least once during my college years, but no matter. I don’t recall ever listening to the record (Troublegum), and probably would have forgotten it altogether, if not for Reader RoyBatty, who suggested I check out the band almost immediately after my initial post for submissions, and who has waited patiently for me to actually do so.
Well, I must thank Reader RoyBatty. This is some cool shit.
Therapy? was formed in Northern Ireland in 1989 by vocalist/guitarist Andy Cairns, drummer Fyfe Ewing, and bassist Michael McKeegan. Over the course of 20-plus years, the band has shifted members and performed as a three-piece, a four-piece, and, for one miserable year, as an 80-piece choir (during which time, they were known as “Mormon? Tabernacle? Therapy?”). They’ve released 12 studio albums (with a new one due any minute now), a live record, and a compilation of songs that were enormous hits in some other dimension (the Sixth, I’d be willing to bet—Sixth Dimension NOW compilations are so much better than the ones you find here).
Time concerns forced me to choose from the Therapy? discography, rather than attempt to gorge myself on the entire thing. I listened to six records, and found myself quite joyously nodding my head, even chuckling, as each passed through my earbuds. Yes, chuckling. Therapy? has a sense of humor. They remind me most often of the much-missed punk band Mclusky—another UK three-piece—in the cynical, sometimes satirical bent of their lyrics, as well as the slammin’ manner with which they broadcast those words and ideas. At their most melodic, they recall late-period Social Distortion, spiked with noisy accents that hearken back to Mission of Burma’s masterpiece Vs.
Of course, I could be way the fuck off, but those are the precedents I brought to the table prior to hearing Therapy?. Folks more up on the band than I can feel free to pelt the Comments section with more fitting comparisons.
Or we could all just listen.
I really dug ’94’s Troublegum, particularly “Turn” and “Brainsaw.” “Turn,” with its Bowie reference and vaguely Afghan Whig-ish dynamics, is a mighty, mighty thing. The chorus is genuinely frightening if listened to with the lights out, and the song as a whole is one of those things I wonder why I don’t hear on rock radio next to old mid-Nineties stalwarts like Smashing Pumpkins or Tool, cuz it exemplifies the best of what that era’s “alt-rock” had to offer. “Brainsaw” is similarly loaded with upper-crust “grunge” instrumentation, and a lyric that pounces from the first breath. “Judas, Judas, I thought you were my friend,” Cairns bellows, and you feel every fleck of spit that hit the microphone when he recorded it.
Never Apologize, Never Explain (2004) is likewise a monument to punk-metal, and it rocks just as hard as Troublegum. “Die Like a Motherfucker”—besides having one of my favorite words in the title (and no, it’s not die, like, or a)—makes me exceedingly happy because it piledrives its point home with maximum force. And it’s a perspective I share:
And super-sized to death
Short attention spawn
The curtains drawn
A generation takes its last breath
When you live like a fucker
You die like a motherfucker
Stated in less vulgar fashion, I’m sure even my parents would agree to the sentiment. But it’s better off stated this way.
Never Apologize also shows off what the band can do in more conventional environs. “Long Distance,” while not exactly a Therapy? power ballad (that distinction goes to the droopy “A Moment of Clarity,” from Infernal Love), is a powerful call to embrace some unspoken life change (“I start today, I drive the other way”). There’s no noise there at all, but the track beats with a definite pulse.
I gravitated also to Nurse (1992), the aforementioned Infernal Love (1995), Semi-Detached (1998), and last year’s Crooked Timber. The latter’s “Clowns Galore” and “Enjoy the Struggle” show that, even two decades and change on, Therapy? can still channel discontent into exciting sonic textures and incisive lyrics. It’s truly a shame the audience that discovered them in 1994 hasn’t, for the most part, kept up with them; they are definitely a band worth listening to.
I made a lala playlist with 17 Therapy? tracks I really dug; enjoy it for the next two weeks, until Apple pulls the plug on the site (Apple, by the way, can kiss my ass for making that move). If there’s enough interest, I’ll move the playlist to another, more amenable location afterward.
I thank Reader RoyBatty for suggesting Therapy?. I will definitely keep them on my radar. I also invite him to suggest his own favorites in the Comments section, if I haven’t gotten them all. See you again in a couple weeks and, as always, keep those suggestions coming.