It’s funny to think of Therapy? as being elder statesmen now. I remember seeing their fresh faces printed in a small inlet buried in the back of an American guitar magazine. Their band name had a question mark and the caption read “HEREIAMMOTHERFUCKER”, all in one word. This was early 1991 and all that was almost too underground for my senses. Close to 25 years later, the “punk” Irish trio’s career is full of been-theres and done-thats. And as Therapy? rolls out their 14th (!) album, they’re well aware how absurdly long their career appears to be. “The road ahead looks shorter than the one behind / Either way, I’m no closer to wisdom” sings guitarist Andy Cairns matter-of-factly on Disquiet‘s long and sludgy closing track “Deathstimate”. He’s probably not singing about his band with that chorus. But despite the fact that a band like Therapy? were never built for longevity, Cairns, bassist Michael McKeegan and (relatively) new drummer Neil Cooper sound like they are glad to still be together. You know what they say about misery…
On Disquiet, Therapy? are still able to capture the mean, lean sound that catapulted them to—and to subsequently sail over—the top. If you’re the kind of music fan to lament the inevitable maturity of most veteran pop acts, you have nothing to be afraid of with an album from Therapy? in 2015. The number of times that the word “fuck” appears in the lyrics is, by itself, not that surprising. But when you stop and consider that Cairns is on the cusp of 50, that’s quite a bit of edge to be dragging into one’s midlife. “Everything thing’s a fuckin’ drama / Don’t you want a little peace?” “Everything is in flux / Everything is totally fucked.” “Trust us to fuck it all up / To fuck it all up when we get near the top.” “I hate you more than you hate me” and “all of the bullshit you’re blurting / Everyone’s heard it all before” could also be considered the lyrics of a Young Man’s Game, but Therapy? have proven themselves deft at blending in with bands half their age. Compare Disquiet with any band currently working under the banners of “punk” or “metal” today, and you’ll find that Therapy? doesn’t necessarily need the help of producer Tom Dalgety to hold their own—not that it hurts, either.
Disquiet is a concise album. Even “Deathstimate”, which lasts seen minutes, wastes no time stating its purpose. As before, Therapy? continue to walk the thin lines where punk, metal, and hard rock blur with vocal hooks and guitar tones that go ‘pop’. “Tides” and “Good News Is No News” in particular help Therapy? make a strong couple of bids for catchy crunch baked with radio-friendly ease. Not that the radio plays anything like Therapy? anymore—“these tides leaving me behind” indeed. Back around the Troublegum days, Cairns gradually moved his voice from shouting to singing. The chorus of “Hopeless Still Lost” catches him in the act of singing the title in big, sustained, soaring vowels. And if any Therapy? fans were worried about the band possibly wearing down their third drummer, “Tides” and “Vulgar Display of Powder” prove that they needn’t. Cooper powers this locomotive like he was never programmed for anything else.
When Disquiet finally falls quiet after 41 minutes, Therapy? fans will feel satisfaction. It’s not the kind of satisfaction that comes with hearing a masterpiece or the genesis of a bold new sound that no one’s heard before, but the satisfaction one gets from knowing one’s favorite band can still pull off a no-filler piece of handiwork after more than 25 years in the business. That counts for more than just something.
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