What Can We Learn From The Career Of Therapy?

Therapy? at the Brighton Concorde 2, March 31 2015
"I got my hair cut in Brighton today, don'tcha know," Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns tells his audience at Brighton's Concorde 2.  "So, remember that.  Putting a wee bit back into the local economy."

Just over 25 years after starting out, Therapy? have released their excellent 15th album, Disquiet.  Arriving in the wake of a couple of their more experimental releases, it's a return to the kind of emotionally turbulent, alternative metal which characterised their breakthrough record, 1994's amazing Troublegum.

While watching them play this, the first date of a European tour - and while meeting up with bassist Michael McKeegan beforehand for a beer and some thrash metal related chat - I'm struck by how much can be learned from this band's career.  Their first release was the 1990 single Meat Abstract, on their own label Multifuckinational Records.  Three years later, they were signed to major label A&M Records and hitting Number 9 in the UK charts with the Shortsharpshock EP (with eternal gem Screamager the lead track.)  The band became darlings of the UK music press, causing a whole raft of jackasses from Melody Maker and the NME to pretend to like heavy metal for quite some time.

(Back when I worked for rock mag Kerrang!, I remember being on a train to Liverpool to review Therapy? live, alongside a bunch of indie journos, who made a point of sitting in a different part of the carriage.  The sniffy attitude Kerrang! got from these people was truly hilarious.  Not least because one of them was wearing leather trousers.)

Come 1998, Therapy? parted ways with A&M.

And that, right there, is the key pivotal moment in any band's career.

Sink or swim.

Fight or flight.

Live or die.

Because that's when your true motives rise to the surface.  If major label fame and fortune was always your goal, then the dream is dead and so are you.  Whereas, if you simply can't stop being creative, even if you wanted to, then returning to the world of indie labels is merely a cosmetic change in your environment.

While so many bands dissolved when their dreams died, Therapy? never stopped moving.  They saw in the new millennium with the furious and not especially commercial album Suicide Pact - You First.  And what they may have lost in promotion and indie press interest, they undoubtedly gained in creative control and freedom.

They've been free ever since.  Making the albums they want to make, while making a great living.  Able to command an audience anywhere in the world.

Therapy?'s Michael McKeegan (left), with a gibbon last night.
That's inspiring.  Especially when they can still produce an album as strong as Disquiet and have the confidence, tonight in Brighton, to play no less than nine songs from it.

The gig is a stormer, with that brace of great new tracks like Still Hurts and Vulgar Display Of Powder sitting very nicely alongside the established classics like Teethgrinder, Nowhere and of course Screamager.  My favourite Therapy? song, since you're asking, is still the incredible Knives.  A ludicrously intense and messed-up piece of horror theatre ("I'm gonna crawl up inside you and die!"), which you can hear at Spotify here.  Crank it up.  This rough and ready YouTube video also goes some way towards capturing its live ferocity.

At one point during Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's sitcom Extras, Gervais' character Andy Millman explains his career mission statement.  And even though Millman is a snob who ends up losing himself in his arty ambitions (unlike Therapy?, who genuinely remain some of the nicest and least affected people I've met in rock), the essence of what he says holds true: the importance of building up a body of work, across your lifetime, that you can be proud of.

That's absolutely what Therapy? have done.  That's what we creative types can learn from their career.  The value of forging ahead relentlessly, doing things because we want to, rather than because we think we should.

Playing the long game, rather than lurching desperately towards every quick fix in sight.  (I recently received a royalty cheque for the Slipknot book I wrote in 2001.)

Creating like no-one's watching.

Glancing at your rear-view mirror, seeing nothing to be ashamed of.

Speeding ever onwards, integrity intact.

And you know, maybe I'm imagining this, but back in those A&M days, I swear Therapy? never used to smile this much onstage.

Disquiet on CD at Amazon UK

Troublegum Deluxe Edition CD at Amazon UK

Therapy?: Twitter / website / tour dates

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1 comment:

Pris said...

There aren't many bands that can pull off what Therapy? did. Splitting from the major label and going independent at the time when the term 'indie' still meant something, and not fading into obscurity/mediocrity.

Hats off!