Arts

Noise Annoys: The enduring love of Therapy?

As Noise Annoys' heroes Therapy? prepare to revisit their divisive 1995 LP Infernal Love at The Limelight on Saturday, David Roy speaks to frontman Andy Cairns about embracing the album he couldn't wait to forget

Therapy? (Michael McKeegan, Andy Cairns, Neil Cooper) play The Limelight on Saturday night

TWENTY years ago, chart-conquering Co Antrim trio Therapy? were looking forward to the end of a particularly turbulent 'annus horriblus'.

1995 found the band – Andy Cairns (guitar/vocals), Michael McKeegan (bass) and Fyfe Ewing (drums/vocals) – rushed into recording a follow-up to the previous year's Mercury-nominated LP Troublegum while burned out from a relentless touring schedule.

The result, Infernal Love, confused critics and fans alike by ditching Troublegum's bracing punk metal in favour of bruised, brooding rock, cellos and some seriously dark lyrics dredged from the depths of frontman Cairns's soul.

The presence of twisted 'ballads' like A Moment of Clarity, Me Vs You and Bowels of Love on the record were certainly a change of pace for the band, yet it also featured the pleasingly off-kilter noise rock blasts 30 Seconds and Epilepsy, effervescent summer anthem Loose and fine riff-tastic moments like Misery, Bad Mother, Stories and 30 Seconds – all songs that were still recognisably the work of the power trio who'd stormed the top 10 with teen angst anthem Screamager two years earlier.

It seems absurd now, but it may well have been Therapy?'s attempt to add a degree of levity to the Infernal Love project that really did them in.

They clowned around in sunglasses, lounge-band-style frilly shirting and comedy stick-on moustaches for the album's promo shots, with one particularly muggsome Anton Corbjin-snapped image selected for the cover of lead single Stories.

This prompted a sharp intake of breath from some Therapy? fans when they first clapped eyes on their heroes' 'new look'.

Infernal Love hit number nine in June, yet quickly dropped out of sight as American pop punk and Britpop became the flavours of the moment.

By the end of the year, tensions within the band were at breaking point and their now traditional end of year gigs in Belfast and Dublin (with Ash and Joyrider) couldn't come quick enough.

Fyfe left after the Belfast date on December 30 and, although Therapy? endured and evolved throughout the two decades that followed – releasing an excellent new LP, Disquiet, earlier this year – the scars of Infernal Love still remain.

As Cairns sums it up today, the album represents "a blue period recorded in angry, raw reds at a time when our hearts were blackest".

Undoubtedly, had you told him in December 1995 that Therapy? would be actually be celebrating Infernal Love 20 years later by performing it in full at a series of highly anticipated gigs, the response would likely have been unprintable.

"That was a horrible year of my life," confirms the Ballyclare man.

"Even after Fyfe left we had touring commitments for the album in America, so we had to go over there and tour it with a completely different line-up through 1996.

"Once that was done, I really never wanted anything to do with Infernal Love again."

Indeed, the vast majority of Infernal Love's songs were banished from the Therapy? set for many years – right up until the band (now featuring Neil Cooper on drums) performed the album in full at last year's Sonisphere Festival to a rapturous reception, a landmark live gig which coincided with Universal Music's fine deluxe reissue of the band's most divisive album.

"I was dreading it," recalls Cairns.

"Even when the tent was rammed and they were turning people away, I was still wondering how it was going to go down. But after the first couple of songs it was actually brilliant.

"Having just turned 50 this year, I'm think I'm a lot more comfortable singing stuff like Me Vs You, A Moment of Clarity and Bowels of Love.

"I actually enjoy them now, whereas I was still very uneasy about those songs first time around, if truth be told.

"People were so used to us being this noisy, punkish rock band and I think I was very aware they were a bit of stretch too far for some people."

This week finds Therapy? doing it all again on home turf with a run of Infernal Love 'and much more' shows featuring support from the recently reformed Membranes.

Tonight brings the second of two Dublin gigs at the Button Factory, while tomorrow evening finds them getting all 1995 at The Limelight in Belfast.

By popular demand, there will be more Infernal Love shows next year too, proving once and for all that Therapy? fans are finally ready to acknowledge the album as an under-appreciated classic.

Plenty of tunes from the album were dusted off for Therapy?'s recent European tour, which coincided with the horrific events of the Paris massacre.

"We'd just played an amazing show in Holland," recalls Cairns of the moment they heard the tragic news from the French capital.

"It was a Friday night, the venue was rammed and we came off stage on a real high. Then Steve my guitar tech told me what was going on and the mood very quickly changed."

However, it seems there was never any question of Therapy? packing up and coming home.

"Without being too disingenuous about it, we always knew we were going to keep on with the tour," comments Cairns, who remembers only too well the negative impact the Troubles had on the north's music scene during the 70s and 80s.

"In fairness to the punters, we were also really chuffed that people still came to see us. At all our shows afterwards, people were turning up almost out of a sense of defiance.

"A lot of American bands pulled their dates, but I think it speaks volumes that us, Ash and Stiff Little Fingers were all playing in Europe and none of us cancelled any shows."

All in, 2015 has been an excellent year for Therapy?, who are already working on songs for their next album.

"Disquiet was kind of a return back to the catchy choruses and melodies of Troublegum and High Anxiety," explains Cairns.

"For the next one I think we want to put together stuff that's catchy but a bit more like Teethgrinder in feel."

In the meantime, steal your girlfriend's blouse, oil up that 'tache and grab those Elvis shades: it's time to finally surrender yourself to Infernal Love's dark embrace.

:: Therapy? with the Membranes, Saturday December 12, The Limelight, Belfast, 7pm.

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