Andy Cairns tells a great story about Therapy?’s spring UK tour with The Stranglers. As the trio walked onstage in Kilmarnock, Scotland, their frontman noticed a solitary punter, three rows from the front, vigorously booing his band before a single amplified guitar chord had been struck. Each successive song in the set received the same vociferous, relentlessly hostile response. Two nights later, at Nottingham Rock City, the antagonist was back once more, front and centre, still booing, though with markedly less enmity than before. In Manchester, on the final night of the campaign, Cairns stepped from his tour bus to be confronted again by the by-now-familiar face of his new nemesis. This time, however, the guy was clutching a pen and a copy of Therapy?’s classic 1994 album 'Troublegum.' “Could you sign this for me please?” he asked politely.
“I think we’d battered him into submission” Cairns says with a laugh.
It’s an instructive anecdote, both a testament to Therapy?’s enduring capacity to win over hearts and minds with their singular, sui generis sound, and a reminder, in a broader sense, that even in the face of alienation, disaffection and discord, there remains hope for consensus, harmony and solidarity.
Which brings us, neatly, to Therapy?’s fifteenth studio album 'Cleave.' Roughly themed around notions of duality and division, the band’s follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed 'Disquiet' - and their first recording for new label Marshall Records – is a sharply focused, fiercely intelligent, impassioned and empowering set of songs from a band operating at a creative and artistic peak. A scathing, incisive state-of-the-nation address, investigating the schisms in contemporary society and the motivations of those seeking to propagate disjuncture, it’s a powerful, challenging, uncompromising collection from a band never afraid to confront and dissect humanity’s darkest impulses.
From the thrillingly propulsive assault of 'Wreck It Like Beckett' via the addictive first single 'Callow' and the unsettling 'I Stand Alone' to the disquieting, bleakly beautiful 'No Sunshine,' the ten tracks which make up the record coalesce to paint a portrait of a fractured, dislocated world rent by unprincipled, mendacious masters.
Andy Cairns is justifiably proud of the unified drive and restless creativity evident in this powerful, questing collection and says this about the forthcoming opus - “I know that we can be a difficult sell, because we have no particular niche and no desire to conform” he admits, “but Therapy? have always been the kind of band that when people discover us, they immerse themselves deep and keep us close to their hearts. We’ve never been part of a trend, so we’ve never been cast aside when fashions changed. 'Cleave,' to me, is Therapy? at our most focused. I love our more experimental side, but I also love that this record sounds like it was made by a band who’re all reading from the same script and moving forward with the same determination and hunger.”
“We’re living in a time riven by conflict” Andy Cairns states baldly. “You look at what’s happening in the United States at present, what’s going on with Brexit in the UK, with North and South Korea, with Palestine and Israel, and it’s impossible not to see turmoil and turbulence. Some of these conflicts have been going on as long as I can remember, but they seemed to really reach a head again around the time we were writing the album. 'Cleave,' is our response to the divisions we see all around us.”