Back in 2000, Therapy? Released So Much For the Ten Year Plan – a retrospective that tried to make sense of their contrary career path up until then. Blasting the door off its hinges in the early ’90s with the rabid industrial mini-albums Baby Teeth and Pleasure Death, they gave grunge the fingers with their caustic post-punk major label debut Nurse, straddled the Kerrang!/NME divide for a few years, then ended the millennium with the unfair tag of Irish rock’s nearly men after their label A&M collapsed.
So another decade and 13 records in, they’re marking their 20th anniversary by playing the whole of Troublegum – their 1994 ‘breakthrough’ punk album that led to hit singles, magazine covers, appearances on Top of the Pops and a higher slot than Slayer at Donington (yes, really). The ticket says: “Therapy? perform Troublegum and more,” and that “more” is delivered in a setlist that nearly hits the 30 mark.
The show’s a pilgrimage for many – if chat and overheard banter is anything to go by, Therapy? was the first gig experience for half the punters in Vicar Street, myself included. As soon as they tear into Knives it’s a joyous riot – with Andy Cairns able to wring a communal singalong out of lines like “I wanna crawl up inside you and die”, pogoing and pulling daft rock moves before Neil Cooper’s drums count Screamager in and everybody’s reliving their first time.
With all the 14 tracks clocking in at the two-three minute mark, the trio race through Troublegum, stopping for the odd breather – offering heartfelt thanks to the crowd, dedicating Die Laughing to Phil Lynott, faux-metal posturing (bassist Michael McKeegan gets dubbed “Evil Priest”) and an anti-religion rant before Lunacy Booth. Troublegum is known for its three-chord pop singles like Screamager and Nowhere, but the leftfield turns are the strongest here – the dirgy downtuned riffs of Unbeliever, the frantic squealing on Unrequited and Cairns’s scarily precise Ian Curtis impression on Joy Division’s Isolation. The crowd lap it up – from the balcony I notice plenty of receding hairlines headbanging as Brainsaw closes the first act in a hail of feedback.
Diehards always say Troublegum was the point Therapy? sold out, when shards of white noise, unnerving movie samples and distorted vocals gave way to poppy riffs and Americanised rhyming couplets. They’re right up to a point, but the band have always been too hard to second guess – equally at home covering Hüsker Dü or camping it up on Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law, which gets thrown into the encore as a daft interlude. ‘Encore’ is an understatement – they knock out around 15 songs when they return, and it’s a concession to older fans. Meat Abstract, Nausea, Punishment Kiss and Fantasy Bag fly by in a hail of skuzzy riffs, sheet metal snares and Andy’s gloriously ramshackle guitar solos that sound like old Spectrum games loading.
Cairns pulls the cabaret card for the call and response chorus of Die Like a Motherfucker, while he climbs amp stacks and McKeegan machine-guns the front row with his bass. Over the last 10 years they’ve played every toilet venue in Europe and beyond and it looks like they’re committing this one to memory. The 4/4 industrial techno stomp of Innocent X is a boot in the chest and the catchy Stories is a respite before they nail it with the nihilistic Potato Junkie – reducing Irish literary history into the mantra: “James Joyce is fucking my sister.” Teethgrinder gets derailed in a tangle of bum notes as they bound around the stage as if it’s their first gig, but you’d let them away with anything at this stage. Therapy?’s new live album is called We’re Here to the End and you know they mean it. See you in 2030, lads.
Originally in state.ie. Photo by Kieran Frost for State