LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Greatest Hits (2020 Versions)' - Therapy?
Northern Irish alt-rockers Therapy? have had an unusual and varied career, spanning 15 full-length studio albums in their thirty year history. Playing a heavily riff-orientated brand of alternative rock blended with metal, punk and noise rock influences; the band got swept up in the grunge movement of the early nineties where they enjoyed a small period of mainstream success with the release of the albums Troublegum in 1994 and Infernal Love in 1995. After this they have remained utterly prolific with their album output, varying their style quite considerably between records, but have remained something of a cult band to many, never reaching the heights of their early years. The band are currently celebrating their thirty year anniversary and are marking the special occasion by releasing a new greatest hits album. Though they have put out compilation releases before, this one is a little different both in the sense that it is a true greatest hits album, comprising simply of their twelve UK Top 40 songs, and because of the fact that every song has been re-recorded for this album at the legendary Abbey Road studio.
In order to bring this project to fruition, Therapy? have once again teamed up with producer Chris Sheldon, who they collaborated with for Troublegum, as well as Semi-Detached, High Anxiety and their latest album Cleave, which came out in 2018. Speaking ahead of the album’s release, vocalist and guitarist Andy Cairns stated the band was “proud of these songs and are excited by how fresh they still sound today.” And that they “hope these tracks will comfort those already familiar with them, remind estranged friends that it’s time they got back in touch and show younger listeners how a bunch of misfits use chaos and melody to get through life and its toughest challenges.” Certainly Cairns, as well as fellow members Michael McKeegan (bass) and Neil Cooper (drums), have always layered their music with raw emotion and connect on a deeper level with their fans so it is no surprise that they are still attempting to do the same thing with a greatest hits album.
Opening the record with Teethgrinder from 1992’s Nurse album is a great starting point for anyone less familiar with Therapy? as it brilliantly encapsulates their trademark spirited aggression which is brought out in the razor-sharp guitar work coupled with Cairns’ penetrated vocals. This melancholic anger continues into the more well-known Screamager, which sounds a lot punkier than its previous incarnation on Troublegum with the sharper sound giving it a less introspective feel than before. As with all of the re-recordings offered by this album, it will be personal preference as to which version each listener prefers, though more longstanding fans of the band may feel that some of the versions like Screamager and Nowhere are a little off-putting when you expect a carbon copy of the original. On the other hand, this slightly more punk-orientated version of Therapy?’s core sound could well entice new listeners who are less enamoured with the early 90’s grunge sound.
The differences between original recordings and the Abbey Road versions should not be too overstated however, as many of the tracks like Turn and Trigger Inside really have not a lot of difference saving the more modern feel that a 2020 studio helps provide. The track which really has out the biggest difference though is Die Laughing due to the addition of Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield providing extra guitars and backing vocals. Stories and Diane also see the band make fairly profound alterations to the originals; with the former lacking the cello and saxophone which was on the Infernal Love version and the latter transforming the haunting ballad cover of the Hüsker Dü song into a more straightforward rock track. Indeed, the approach of transforming Therapy?’s greatest hits into these often more stripped-down versions is to a large extent the defining theme of these Abbey Road Session recordings.
Although purist fans of the band may not be sold on the changes, the decision to re-record their classic tracks in this way accomplishes several things. Firstly, it allows anyone who may not have been fully sold on Therapy?’s classic material beforehand to give them another try and see if these newer takes don’t change their minds somewhat. For fans though, what the album does do is provide enough variety in the music for it to be worth listening to, even if you have all the classic albums, but still similar enough to the originals that there is little chance they will dislike them. Keeping a consistent sound throughout also makes it feel less like a greatest hits album and more like a coherent record in keeping with the way the band have stuck more or less to a single sound for each of their prior releases. What this greatest hits album does more than anything though is show that thirty years on, Therapy? have not lost their edge, their aggression or their appeal to fans of hard rock music. While this album offers only a taste of what they have accomplished over the last thirty years, it makes me very keen to see what is to come in the next thirty.
'Greatest Hits (2020 Versions)' is out now via Marshall Records.
Check out the lyric video for 'Die Laughing', featuring James Dean Bradfield, below:
Therapy? will be touring the UK and Europe later in the year. Tickets are on sale now, and dates can be found below:
‘So Much For The 30 Year Plan’ Tour 2020:
Sep 25th – The Olympia, Dublin
Sept 26th – The Limelight, Belfast
Oct 4th – Phoenix, Exeter
Oct 5th – Wedgewood, Portsmouth
Oct 6th – Concorde 2, Brighton
Oct 8th – SWX, Bristol
Oct 9th – Waterfront, Norwich
Oct 10th – Rock City, Nottingham
Oct 12th – Garage, Glasgow
Oct 13th – Riverside, Newcastle
Oct 15th – Picturedrome, Holmfirth
Oct 16th – Welly, Hull
Oct 17th – KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
Oct 19th – Tramshed, Cardiff
Oct 20th – Junction, Cambridge