Noise Annoys: Therapy?'s new official biography reviewed, plus new music from Gareth Dunlop and Power of Dreams
It's book review time at Noise Annoys towers as the new Therapy? biography plops through the letterbox, plus words on new music from Gareth Dunlop and Power of Dreams...
:: So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy?, The Authorised Biography – Simon Young (Jawbone Press)
NORTHERN Ireland's alternative rock godfathers Therapy? finally get a much deserved rock biog courtesy of veteran Kerrang! man (and Therapy? fan) Simon Young, who charts the history of the much loved trio from their earliest days right up to 2020.
Written with the full co-operation of the band, this 'authorised' tome is based around extensive interviews with founding members Andy Cairns and Michael McKeegan and 'new boy' (since 2002) Neil Cooper, all three of whom offer revealing insight into the band's history, songwriting and day-to-day operations.
Original drummer Fyfe Ewing did not contribute to the book, so those hoping to finally read his side of his split from the band at the commercial peak of their powers in 1996 will be disappointed – though Ewing's former bandmates are certainly candid enough (in a typical 'bear-no-grudges' Therapy? style) about some of the more eyebrow-raising occurrences that went on prior to his departure.
Presented in a chapter per year format, local fans who grew up listening to the band throughout the 1990s will particularly enjoy the early pages charting Therapy?'s scrappy DIY beginnings and first flushes of indie success as a popular support act who quickly began to overshadow the headliners they were being paired with, particularly on their 'home patch' – like when Oxford shoegaze lords RIDE endured a Limelight crowd repeatedly chanting the rude chorus refrain of early Therapy? anthem Potato Junkie throughout their own set (bless 'em).
We get plenty on the trio's exciting time as indie chart toppers while on Wiiija Records along with the disappointingly messy end to their relationship with the respected London imprint – anyone wondering why Therapy?'s first two records Babyteeth and Pleasure Death still haven't been re-issued will find the answer here – as well as first hand accounts of how they negotiated the tricky transition to major label status and festival favourite rock act in the wake of their deal with A&M Records, for whom they delivered a trio of LPs including their million selling tribute to Ulster punk, Troublegum, in 1994.
The difficult, burn-out-afflicted birth of the subsequent album Infernal Love receives a thorough dissection, as do Therapy's 'wilderness' years in the late 90s as the reconfigured band – now bolstered by guitarist/cellist Martin McCarrick and new drummer Graham Hopkins (the latter of whom Young also spoke to for the book) – negotiate the collapse of their label and a return to independent rock even as creative differences begin to take their toll.
Twenty-first century Therapy? is also well documented: the arrival of Derby-based former Beyond/Cable drummer Neil Cooper ushers in a successful return to the power trio format and a creative rebirth as Cairns and McKeegan finally hook up with a powerhouse sticksman with whom they click musically and personally.
Although the book can become slightly repetitive while covering the later Therapy? records – songwriting sessions and studio selection are dutifully covered, followed by a run-down on the recording process, a song-by-song commentary, a selection of critical responses and a round-up of subsequent touring activity (which surely goes with the territory when it comes to any rock biog) – the sections dealing with the band's hugely well received forays into 'all-acoustic' territory around their Wood & Wire release and the cathartic 25th anniversary celebration/re-evaluation of their divisive Infernal Love LP are superbly evocative that will have fans wanting to put on the records again as they read.
In fact, pretty much every chapter of the book has this effect, which is surely a recommendation in itself; So Much For The 30 Year Plan is now without question the essential reference work for any obsessive Therapy? fan wondering how their favourite track/album was created and what was going on with the band at the time. With this year's celebratory 30th anniversary tour having been nixxed by Covid, Simon Young's well researched and hugely readable rock tome will undoubtedly help tide Therapy? nuts over until it's safe to rock again with some perfectly timed page-turning nostalgia.
ON THE subject of Covid cocking up best laid musical plans, it seems that Belfast singer/songwriter Gareth Dunlop's latest EP owes its very existence to the ongoing pandemic.
"I had intended to release my second album (ANIMAL) this spring, but Covid turned the world upside down so plans were put on hold and tours were cancelled," he explains.
"[Thus] the Born Uncool EP was born. It is a sonic departure from everything else I've ever done. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made the same studio decisions if my world had not have slowed down for a few months."
Indeed, the five tunes here were created during lockdown and find Dunlop exploring a more electronically powered/enhanced direction than the rootsy, acoustic guitar orientated sound of his acclaimed debut album, No 79, from 2017.
Happily, his distinctive croon and ear for sharp melodic/lyrical hooks are still very much part of Born Uncool's package: catchy climactic tune In A Hundred Years bridges the gap between old and new nicely along with the atmospheric anthemics of uplifting ballad Carry You and the stripped back slow dance charms of Summer Grass, while the opening one-two punch provided by the urgent, drum machine backed indiepop of the title track and Train Driver are sure to win the Belfast man new fans beyond his usual faithful following.
Check it out now via Garethdunlopmusic.bandcamp.com/album/born-uncool.
:: Power of Dreams – Hurricane (FIFA Records)
LAST but far from least for this week is the latest track from the hugely anticipated forthcoming Power of Dreams LP, Auslander – another musical endeavour created entirely during lockdown.
Propelled by a superbly nimble and grooving bassline, Hurricane is a poisoned tongued pop kiss-off to an unnamed negative creep which chimes, shimmers and blooms in a gloriously tumbling manner that's not un-reminiscent of – whisper it – U2 at their most tastefully restrained.
Find out if you (dis)agree today, because Hurricane has just hit Powerofdreams.bandcamp.com, Spotify and all other digital outlets. Insert your own joke about being 'blown away' here.
THIS WEEK'S MOST ANNOYING NOISES: SO MUCH FOR THE 30 YEAR PLAN EDITION
Church of Noise
Ten Year Plan
Gimme Back My Brain
If It Kills Me
Rain Hits Concrete
Enjoy The Struggle
Living In The Shadow of The Terrible Thing