Therapy? - Crooked Timber

Brian Hopkins 21/03/2009

Rating: 5/5

Therapy? have always been an awkward band. They started as a Northern Irish noise-punk three-piece indebted to US indie bands such as Big Black and Husker Du, but their major label debut also owed a lot to white-label techno. 1994's Troublegum, got nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, went top 5 in the UK and has sold over one million copies. The next album, Infernal Love, kept the band on Top of the Pops despite them often ditching the buzz-saw guitars found on Troublegum for tales of unrequited love with cellos. Following on from a few obscure and badly publicized releases Therapy? have returned with an album that celebrates their experimental nature.

Crooked Timber takes its name from a quote by the philosopher Immanuel Kant and this gives an early indication of the nature of the album. The opening song, The Head That Tried To Strangle Itself, evokes images of Edvard Munch's The Scream and throughout the album we are treated to existential subject matter.

The musical influences on Crooked Timber seem to be just as eclectic. Second song Enjoy the Struggle kicks in with an overdriven bass adding a swing groove reminiscent of Helmet's jazz-inspired riffs. In fact the band have stated that jazz genius Charles Mingus was a big influence on the album and this is evident in the structure of many of the songs, which rarely follow the formula of verse-chorus-verse.

Despite the experimental nature of some songs the album is still very accessible. Clowns Galore harks back to Therapy?'s early indie releases with rhythm taking preference over melody and a focus on drums and bass. The brilliant Exiles follows this formula while adding complex guitar and vocal harmonies to create a haunting feel. Much of the album sees a minimalist approach applied to song writing and the guitars are rarely high in the mix but add intricacies that are apparent only after repeated listens. The title track offers us an example of musical sparseness employed to great effect, a deceptively simple beat driven song that mesmerizes and draws you in.

As a whole the album is a brilliantly realized work of art and Crooked Timber is perhaps Therapy?'s most consistent album. The production is flawless and the decision to employ Andy Gill of Gang of Four fame to record the album has worked brilliantly. They have always been an interesting band but to produce this after so many years in the business is remarkable. The band seem invigorated and focused, something that may have been missing on certain past efforts.

If you like your rock music rhythmic, intelligent and left-field then the brilliantly awkward Crooked Timber comes highly recommended.