Therapy? are one of the most underappreciated bands from Northern Ireland whose fusion of metal, punk and alternative rock has seen them develop a diverse fanbase since their formation in 1989. Formed by guitarist and vocalist Andy Cairns and drummer Fyfe Ewing, the soon recruited Michael McKeegan on bass before recording their first single in 1990 titled Meat Abstract.
For their first couple of years they were very much an underground act. All the members were still working regular jobs whilst gigging sporadically, supporting many other bands in the underground punk and alternative scenes. Their first album, 1991’s Babyteeth and 1992’s mini album Pleasure Death were both independent successes with them both topping the British indie charts.
This soon gathered interest from major label A & M, with whom their first release was Nurse also released in 92 which saw them produce their first top forty single with “Teethgrinder.” It was the right time for the band with the grunge revolution happening and the band even being dubbed by some of the UK music press as the “Irish Nirvana.”
The band soon hit their commercial peak in 1993 with a string of successful singles and the following year saw the release of their most celebrated album Troublegum. Around this time, the band were enjoying genuine mainstream success, even appearing several times on British mainstream chart show Top of the Pops.
However, this period of success came to an end in the shape of the next album released in 1995 titled Infernal Love which was a much more experimental effort and received underwhelming critical reviews. Ewing quit the band in 1996 to be replaced by Graham Hopkins. After a somewhat difficult period throughout the rest of the nineties, the band soldiered on into the new millennium where they have continued to be a consistent touring and recording act ever since, albeit on a cult scale. Here is a list of their ten best songs from their long and interesting career.
# 10 – Meat Abstract
The title of this track taken from Babyteeth was inspired by the work of an artist called Helen Chadwick. It is an early track from Therapy? and has a very industrial vibe to it being particularly reminiscent of Ministry. The lyrical subject matter is very dark and morbid, being inspired by a case in which a young boy had murdered several people in a shooting spree. The song’s opening line “No one knows the trouble I’ve seen” was on a t shirt that the boy was wearing when he was arrested.
# 9 – Lonely Cryin Only
This song was featured on 1998’s Semi-Detached album from which it was released as a single where it reached number thirty-two on in the UK charts. The band’s love of Husker Du is very evident in this track, as it contains much of the kind of melodies that were found in that band’s music. This album was their fourth and final major label release on A&M records. It was recorded in various stages and charted at number twenty-one in the UK albums chart.
# 8 – Diane
Speaking of Husker Du, here is a cover of one of their most celebrated songs with a twist. Whereas the original is a traditionally played alternative rock number, Therapy’s version featured only Andy Cairn’s vocals with a cello providing the instrumentation. It reached number twenty-six on the UK charts and twenty in the band’s native Ireland. It was featured on Infernal Love relased in 1995 as previously stated.
# 7 – Loose
Next is another track from Infernal Love that is also very reminiscent of Husker Du, who were a very massive influence on the band, which was heavily reflected in the band’s music during this period. This album in general represented a massive shift from the metallic sound of the previous album Troublegum. Another single, it reached number twenty-five in the Uk and number twenty-three in Ireland.
# 6 – Teethgrinder
Here we have another track from the band’s early period taken from 1992’s Nurse which again has a very industrial feel being reminiscent of Ministry and smaller British bands such as Pitchshifter. Despite being less commercially accessible than the band’s later material, it charted relatively high in both the Uk and Ireland, reaching number thirty in the former and nineteen in the latter. This was probably helped by the fact that the song was used in a computer game that was released around the time titled Roadrash.
# 5 – Potato Junkie
This track from 1992’s Pleasure Death which, as previously stated was a mini album. It is a track ridiculing the stereotypes of the band’s home country such as Leprechauns and the color green which were apparently prevalent at the time because of the booming touring industry. Cairns explicitly stated that such playful and colorful things had no place in their lives at the time. The lyrics are sarcastically sick and the chorus contains a line about Ulysses author James Joyce that is unprintable here.
# 4 – Fantasy Bag
Here is another track from Pleasure Death which is a trippy Space Rock number that automatically brings to mind British bands who were around at the time such as Loop and Spacemen 3. However, it mixes this sound with a more traditional rock formula, with the drums having an industrial vibe to them, resembling Killing Joke in some places and the main guitar riff during the pre-chorus part even has a Joy Division-esque sound.
# 3- Loser Cop
This Babyteeth track is inspired by a time that the band were arrested whilst at a party and taken in for questioning. The track has the feel of an eighty’s hardcore punk track, specifically the Dead Kennedys, something that is particularly made evident by the police brutality theme. The track definitely shows Therapy’s weird side, despite being inspired by a real-life event it is not lyrically inspired as the song has no lyrics. The story of the incident instead is told by a clever use of samples relating to police corruption.
# 2 – Trigger Inside
This track from Troublegum sees the band at their finest in terms of mixing heavy metallic guitars with punk attitude. Sounding in parts like Killing Joke who were a big influence on the band early on, the band were showing here that despite becoming more commercially successful, their love truly lived in the underground scene. Indeed, when released as a single which peaked in the British charts at twenty-two and sixteen in in Ireland it contained three other tracks that were covers of The Stranglers, Wire and The Membranes.
# 1 – Nowhere
At the top spot is the track that is the band’s most well-known taken from Troublegum. The track shows the band at the height of their commercially accessible peak, being very melodic and catchy. In many ways, this track is a homage to the band’s Irish punk forefathers such as the Undertones and Rudi. Commercial performance-wise, it peaked at number eighteen in the UK and six in Ireland.