Therapy? – Crooked Timber (DR2 Records)

Friday, 15th March 2013
Rating: 9/10

Twelve albums in (if you include EP’s Babyteeth and Pleasure Death) and Northern Ireland rockers Therapy? are still going strong. Better than ever actually when you get down to it and really start to feel comfortable with Crooked Timber. Their last few albums came in quick succession but they took a bit of a break before this one. That extra bit of time and care really shines through. Crooked Timber as an album is fuller, more rounded and definitely their most experimental and darkest work since 1999’s Suicide Pact – You First ten years ago, their most complete album since High Anxiety in 2003. Anyone who’s familiar with this band knows that their odd, awkward albums are the ones that stand the test of time best and Crooked Timber is one of the strangest.

Opener “The Head That Tried To Strangle Itself” has a churning start, sparse verse then snappy, weirdly melodic chorus. The drawn out scraping, electronic mid-section puts you on a wrong footing, before thrusting back into the fray. The absolutely genius “Clowns Galore” is going to be savage live. Hard snapping beats, a big chugging bass, a drilling guitar riff that’ll take your head off and sharply hooked vocals make this the album’s standout track – worth the entrance fee alone. In a way, it harks back to the early days of Nurse and to a lesser extent Troublegum.

One thing that fans shouldn’t be worried about though is Therapy? relying on the past. This band exists outside of normal timelines and with nothing to prove to anyone else can seemingly do what they like. That it’s still fresh and exciting after so many years together makes Crooked Timber an absolute joy to listen to, each track unfurling before you as you constantly remain unsure where it’s going to turn next. “Enjoy The Struggle” is built on a big, rolling riff that pushes and pulls, like the rock the referenced Sisyphus battles with. Andy Cairns’ sharp, sometimes witty, sometimes biting, vocals work perfectly throughout the album. Apart from “Magic Mountain,” the huge and meandering, 10-minute instrumental, which instead of building up to something majestic instead ambles around, sounding a little like Placebo, this album is almost flawless. Sure it starts off really well, like a big summertime rock song, but once it gets to the five-minute mark it would have been better off being cut.

So there’s “Exiles” built on a bass line similar to Muse’s “Muscle Museum” and a weird, softly, softly type of vocal delivery, with Neil Cooper’s hi-hat/snare interplay keeping things moving nicely. The less than perfect “Blacken The Page” sounds a bit out of place, more of a poppy-punky-rocky song than anything else on here. In fact with too many highlights to mention in the middle (infectious choruses “I Told You I Was Ill” brilliant big riff rock “Somnabulist” odd rock “Crooked Timber”) we’ll just skip to the end and album closer, “Bad Excuse For Daylight,” which dominates.

Once you’ve listened to Crooked Timber through once from then on it sits waiting for you, at the back of a dark alley all teeth and claws. Built on an almighty, massive, dirty riff and sheer sludgey heaviness it’s as if Charger or The Melvins have found their way onboard somehow. Therapy? have not been this metal in a long time as it pulses along, especially the chugging part before the vocal comes in, “One of these days when nature spring cleans I’ll be part of the flotsam that goes” Andy Cairns drones, almost uncaringly. The outro simply goes its own way giving no regard to either time nor key signature, but before that there’s still the wicked melodies and hooks they always manage to infuse things with.

An absolute curveball to be thrown at the end, but one which keeps you guessing and will have you coming back for more and more. Therapy? aren’t going to pander to you and they’re certainly not going to make things easy, which means there are flaws, but in a world where perceived perfection is set as a goal everywhere we look, it’s nice to get a bit of ugliness chucked in to keep it real. Therapy?, it’s good to have you back.

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