Therapy? – Troublegum
How many 11 year-old kids can say that they had school dances with Nirvana’s “Nevermind” playing as they were dancing? Not many indeed. Seeing as these days were the last gasp of cassette days in Israel, us kids would borrow our older siblings’ tapes and play them at parties.
Besides “Nevermind”, I remember Guns n’ Roses albums, as well as Pearl Jam’s Ten and Queen’s G.H. played in their entirety. This served a great purpose when I finally had my own money for the first time and I could buy my very first CD.
1994: I was still kind of adjusting to Zurich, Switzerland. We moved there and went to an American international school. At that age, I don’t believe my transition was as tough as my older sister’s, but I can safely say that the language barrier was quite problematic in my leisure time.
Still being a studious pupil in my middle school days, I had lots of time to fill. Friends mostly living far away didn’t allow for much time to hang out. So besides the bi-weekly comic store visit, there’s the classic time filler of TV, right? Well, that’s were the language barrier kicks in. With 40+ channels in German/French/Italian, I only had CNN and NBC to “enjoy” in English. I had to give in to my sister’s years-old obsession with music-channels, and I started watching Viva (the German equivalent of MTV).
And then Therapy? came on.
I’m not sure what it was about the initial exposure to Therapy?, but being the first CD I’d purchased it must have been quite an eye-opener.
My sister used to listen to Pearl Jam, Metallica, STP and others, but I think the Therapy? appeal was, unbeknownst to me, deep rooted in the punk ethic. Sure, Therapy? were heavy, but they certainly weren’t metal or grunge. They didn’t try to be it, either. It was the attitude, the lyrics, and the catchy heavy riffs that created some unfamiliar harmony to my ears. I knew I had to buy the album.
Guitarist/singer Andy Cairns, bassplayer Michael McKeegan, and drummer Fyfe Ewing brought something so fresh that it seemed plausible to be embraced by every genre category , while at the same time not quite find its place in any of them.
Trigger Inside –
At the time I used to listen to CDs with a CD player and earphones (not having a boom box til a couple of years later) and I cranked it up.
Listening to albums from start to end at the time was the norm, at least for me. At that stage I was obsessed with comic books, and I used to dig into a pile of them listening to albums on repeat. Therapy? started that tradition.
Besides introducing me to Joy Division (“Isolation cover) and Helmet (“Unbeliever”), Therapy? added an element of self awareness and dark humor which the other big bands lacked at the time. The album opener, “Knives”, is a true shocker, and epitomizes this exact description. Therapy?’s Andy Cairns seemed almost ashamed to be viewed as a rock icon – always paying his dues to other artists, bringing any hint of boastfulness down with vengeance. Being a teenager, not being content with oneself is described so well on Troublegum. On every turn you may find Cairns’s lyrics describe your exact thoughts.
Tomi Ellenberg (a punk partner in crime) and I saw Therapy? live in 1999 in Zurich. They weren’t as popular as in 1994 of course, but there were so many dedicated fans there that, in retrospect, I feel the band draws a sincere constant dedication from fans similarly to Motorhead. We interviewed Andy at length a few years ago: an interview which could have been carried on for hours, if not days, had I not felt guilty for exhausting Andy over the line.
What sincerely makes me smile when doing interviews is having to find out the artist you’re talking to is just as great a person as he seems to be through the lyrics. Andy is a deep, funny and artistic man indeed. He may get tired of Troublegum (as Therapy? indeed has so many other gems throughout their rich career), but for me, it was the album that truly started it all.
Still hope they’ll grace Israel with another visit, as they haven’t been here in 15 years.