THERAPY? "TroubleGum20" : Nottingham Rock City, 05 April 2014
An unexpectedly busy Rock City on a Saturday night sees Therapy? - persistent Irish rock trio that have weathered the storms of fame, major labels, brief enormity and now relative stability – headline the best venue in the Midlands (and after the defunct Astoria, possibly the second best in the UK), and revisiting their now 20 year old classic “Troublegum”. Aside from the fact that Michael McKeegan isn't in dungarees, and the drummer is now Neil Cooper - who has been in the band 12 years -, it's exactly the same as it ever was.
One the best rock albums of the 90's, ”Troublegum” is a succinct, 14 song, 48 minute explosion of buzzsaw guitars from the great book of rock riffs, self-pitying introspective lyrics designed for T-shirts (such as “Masterbation saved my life!”, “Jesus, without the suffering”). In this form, the trio – probably the best rock trio working today – are authentic : not a bunch of replacement uberblokes, or a singer with hired employees pretending to be a band, but a genuine solid lineup of honest to goodness rock loving hard touring bastards, always playing somewhere in the world, touring around 400 nights a year, and releasing records with a furious frequency to literally handfuls of people. Unlike some bands, Therapy? do this because it's what they love to do. Growing up on Dio, and Metal, and Punk, Therapy? aren't the typical greedheads of which old rock bands are made, egocentric primadonnas demanding Five Star hotel rooms with private jets, but people who grew up fans, who became what they wanted to be – guys who played rock for a living – and managed to make an OK living out of it. Whilst the 'big days' of Therapy? are gone, for their brief flash of mega success was merely a momentary glimpse of a different life – and one cruelly cut short by Britpop wankers in London dominating the press and airwaves with happy go lucky oompah trivia, Therapy? Are a band that will always be able to sell a few hundred tickets on any given night in any given major British town, and manage to traverse the rest of the UK, and this tour sees them revisit “TroubleGum” on its 20th anniversary (on the heels of their own, career spanning “Gemil” 10 disc box set, and deluxe reissues of “TroubleGum” and “Infernal Love”) :
They open with the powerful, ticking bomb of “Knives”, which manages to enscapulate self-examination and self-abuse in equal measures, coupled with melodies that anyone – even the milkman – could whistle. The Pixies formula, also shamelessly milked by Nirvana to lesser effect – of Quiet/Loud/QUIET/LOUD is exploited mercilessly all night : “Knives”, after all, manages to capture a multitude of self-righteous fury, self-pity, and self-self-self, wrap it up two and a half minutes, and slum dunk heartbreak into more damn power than a million punk Tusunga Blasts. Within seconds, the assault continues solidly, only pausing for the rarely played (and less-effective) “Unrequited”. Within 50 minutes, Cairns & Co, who have eased comfortably into being a supremely efficient music delivery system with the same kind of fearless precision as a drone missle, leave the room exhausted. There's some strange satisfaction in witnessing 1000 middleaged people yelling lines like “I've Seen You WITHOUT ME”, because even though we are meant to be dull now, boring, sorted out our lives, middle aged, pension plans, mortgages, children, careers, holidays, and knowing how to change a plug, even though we may be all these dull things – we are what we once were, children, hopeful adolescents, people who once loved the boy or girl that would never even look at them, we were all those things, and “Troublegum” was, as all things, a primal rock record, touching upon a base spiritual need, the need to love, and be loved, expressed in multiple forms across these songs, but ultimately all these songs were about the question of society. Are you in or out? Loved, or unloved? Part of, or apart from? We may know the answers but it doesn't mean these aren't still questions. No matter how old we might be.
After all, most of us are – charitably – late 30's to mid 40's – and this jumping up and down business is much fucking harder when you're twice the age you used to be. But the music still cauterises. And, with a plethora of b-sides and same era songs to come, there's a brief respite when Best B-side ever – yes, better than “How Soon Is Now?” - “Evil Elvis” - gets me and four others excited, before a rampage through a 45 minute set of umpteen b-sides, a rare airing for “Infernal Love” song 'Misery', and towards the end, a veritable hits set of “Opal Mantra”, “Teethgrinder”, “Breaking The Law”, and a final humungous stomp of “Potato Junkie” and The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, sees a crowded room in the Midlands sweat and shout and jump around. Grow old. Not up. Grow better, not boring.
Oh yes, I just said this band were better than Nirvana up there. And if Therapy? had managed to be consumed by the tedious predictability of drug addiction and suicide, you'd probably agree with me.
Totally Random Man
Breaking The Law
I Wanna Be Your Dog