Therapy? - Crooked Timber (DR2/Riot)

I've been a big fan of Therapy? since I discovered Troublegum a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. That album still gets a spin with me every once in a while - it still stands as a great accomplishment. I've enjoyed other Therapy? releases too - Pleasure Death, Nurse, Infernal Love were all dark and raw, almost as good to me as Troublegum.

This band has been working hard for twenty years. They have a reputation for messing about with their style, trying different things. Sometimes it works really well, other times it doesn't work so well. Recent efforts haven't really grabbed me and sadly, Crooked Timber really doesn't do it for me either. I can sort of see what they're trying to achieve, but it all just comes across as a bit flat.

The whole album sounds a bit lazy, like they couldn't really be bothered. Worst of all are Andy Cairns's vocals. The distinctive sound is there, but the delivery is dull. The album starts slowly, then there's hope for redemption when track two, Enjoy The Struggle, kicks in. It has a good dirty riff and a deep, loose bass. The drums are a bit tin pot sounding, but that kinda works. Then Cairns's vocals kick in and he sounds like a drunk karaoke singer. Perhaps it's at least partly in the production of this record, but it's just overall a bit weak.

I will listen further. It does have the feel of something that might grow on me if I give it chance. Track 4, Exiles, is a nice change of pace and has a good, almost ballad opening that slowly crunches up a bit. It's interesting and engaging, Cairns's voice even working here, but it's sadly one of the few high points of this album.

The album title comes from Immanuel Kant (18th-century German philosopher): “From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” Andy Cairns admits that this record is not really the obvious path for Therapy? He says:

"I guess we’re always challenging just what makes us Therapy?. After so many years, if we were formulaic about it, we’d have gotten bored with the band long ago. The album was written together as a band, and each track has its own concept and inspirations. They took a while to write and we’ve taken our time to write them."

Maybe they should have taken less time?

Track 5, the title track, follows the feel and vibe of Exiles and the disc starts to show some coherence. There are some interesting sounds in the recording. But it's flat, like the rest of the album. The drums really start to sound ordinary by the sixth track, I Told You I Was Ill (which is, incidentally, the epitaph Spike Milligan wanted on his gravestone. I wonder if that's where the band got the name from?) On occasion the guitar and bass have some body and thump, but the drums never do. Cairns lacklustre vocals, the generally muddy and dull overtones, the cooking pot drums - it's all a bit disappointing.

By track 9, Magic Mountain, things really get unusual. This track is a ten minute instrumental, bizarre enough coming from this "punk" influenced band. More bizarre still is the spacey, prog sort of sound they launch this track with, leading into almost new romantic beats and licks. Seriously, Therapy?, what are you playing at? At around the six minute mark it starts to heavy up a bit, but I'm well over it by then and it never really goes anywhere anyway. The album finishes with track 10, Bad Excuse For Daylight. This has a bit of an industrial feel at the start and some promise, but in truth it's really no stronger than the opener.

Perhaps it is as simple as a poorly mixed and produced record, but a band with the pedigree and experience of Therapy? should never let that happen. I'm a Therapy? fan and I want to like this release; it may take a while to grow on me. The trouble is, I don't really know if I can be bothered putting the effort in. I don't want a Troublegum or Infernal Love clone, but I do yearn for the power and grit of those records. Oh well, better luck next time.

Crooked Timber is out now on DR2/Riot.