Monday, December 01, 2003

A blast from the past

"My girlfriend says that I need help / My boyfriend says I'd be better off dead / I'm gonna get drunk / Come round and fuck you up / I'm gonna get drunk / Come round and fuck you up / And you can't help my life / But you can hide the knives." As the opening lyrics to an album go, they're quite arresting.

The song is 'Knives', the band is Therapy?, and the album is Troublegum. Released in 1994, it'll always be something of a classic for me, even though it disgusted the majority of the indie press by representing a rejection of the Big Black stylings of their "youth" in favour of Judas Priest. A record full of clean-cut dark-as-night pop-metal, it positively revels in its own pantomimic excess and the sort of wickedly misanthropic soundbites that look good on (black) T-shirts. As far as the critics were concerned, it didn't help that they chose to include a cover version of the sacred cow 'Isolation' (this, incidentally, was my introduction to the brilliance of Joy Division) and relations got much, much worse when they took on Husker Du's 'Diane' on Troublegum's drug-fuelled follow-up Infernal Love, turning it into an eerily epic yet rotten-to-the-core string-laden beast...

A succession of less accomplished albums followed that: Semi-Detached and then, having been dropped by their label A&M, Suicide Pact - You First. By this time, I'd lost interest, so 2001's Shameless and the news that they had a new LP out, High Anxiety, passed me by.

So it is quite bizarre to find myself, almost by accident, seeing them live for the very first time on a Saturday night at Rock City. Little seems to have changed since their heyday - Andy Cairns is still portly and still worryingly fond of his leather waistcoat, Michael McKeegan still evidently worships at the altar of Black Sabbath, and, even though the drummer has changed (again), there is still the unmistakeable whipcrack snare drum sound. New material is wisely kept to a premium - judging by the likes of 'Who Knows' and 'Nobody Here But Us', their best days are very firmly behind them and they're sensible to be concentrating on former glories. Having a pop at 'Heat' magazine and at Radiohead (who are busy playing the Nottingham Arena) from the stage is hardly today's news, either - mere mention of the latter reminds me of what I'm missing out on just being here.

But the opening salvo of 'Nowhere' and 'Teethgrinder' hits the spot at least, and there are plenty of other moments - 'Church Of Noise', 'Dancing With Manson', 'Stop It You're Killing Me', 'A Moment Of Clarity' - when I'm transported back to the dark days of teenagerdom when they really mattered to me. Times might change, my tastes might inevitably move on, but I'll always look on Therapy? (and Troublegum in particular) with affection. Plus, 'Potato Junkie' has one of the finest lyrical couplets of any song I know: "I'm bitter, I'm twisted / James Joyce is fucking my sister"...

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