The most impressive thing about Therapy? is just how much longevity they’ve had. For a band whose moment in the sun came and went with Troublegum all the way back in 1994, this Irish trio have been pushing forward with new music regularly, and doing so while staying true to themselves throughout, tweaking their very ‘90s brand of grunge and alt-metal rather than paving over themselves to simply follow trends. It’s led to a band that aren’t the biggest (or even greatest) around, but have amassed a dedicated following by their own means, and that deserves a lot of respect on its own.
And with each new album, you can really tell that Therapy? aren’t really trying to disturb the status quo by any great degree, and are much more comfortable working to the best of their abilities within their own lane. So for an album whose primary purpose is to see the Therapy? machine running alone nicely, Cleave does pretty much everything it needs to with few real mishaps. Sure, it’s not pushing any boundaries, and sure, some less-than-desirable ‘90s production tactics rear their head every so often, like the tin-pot drums and Andy Cairns’ grainy vocal filters on Kakistocracy and Dumbdown, but the fact that Therapy? can still turn out an album of good quality in what’s approaching their third decade is a testament to how resilient of a band they are.
Honestly, it’s not a lot that’s kept them that way either, simply the ability to write big, hook-driven rock songs with enough of a jagged edge to hold their own, and Cleave is in no shortage. The likes of Callow and the title track have the sort of overflowing modern rock appeal of a far younger band, but the buzzsaw guitar tone of slightly buffed-up alt-metal keeps that seething, snarling edge of a band with plenty of experience in that field. That’s another impressive constant that Cleave uses to its advantage; it’s not as outwardly dirty and grimy as some of Therapy?’s past material, but it’s a production style that works with the more ferocious instrumentation rather than against it. And that’s ultimately why this album works so well, in that its connections to the past do remain in view at all times, but they’re not the bedraggled, frayed strings that would feel dated. Rather, Therapy? are much better at polishing them up for a comfortable listen in a modern context, and it really does work.
And it’s quite impressive that they’ve done that, actually. For a band who’ve been around as long as they have, Therapy? had every right to phone this one in, but fifteen albums deep, they’re still putting in the effort and they’re still coming out on top for it. Even if this is an album almost exclusively designed for the fans who’ve been around for this long, long ride, there’s appeal here for anyone who likes some heavier, melodic rock, and Therapy?’s accessibility needs to congratulated in that regard. Even if it’s not particularly special, Cleave is how a modern incarnation of an older sound is done right.
For fans of: Helmet, Skunk Anansie, Prong
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Cleave’ by Therapy? is released on 21st September on Marshall Records.