Thursday, 23 June 2016

Oliver: Therapy? - Fantasy Bag (8 February 1992)

If Max Geldray was a dominant musical force for me in 1992, alongside a raft of 60s bands, then Northern Ireland's Therapy? picked me up by the throat and fired me in to the here and now in 1993.

Screamager, the lead track on their March 1993 Shortsharpshock EP, grabbed my attention and interest in a way that no track had done for years when I first saw them perform it on Top of the Pops, as a bonafide Top 10 hit.  "Screw that.  Forget about that" was the call I had been waiting for, and it meant I took my first tentative steps at looking seriously at the music of my age, rather than looking back to the time before I was born.  I really must get back to doing that again....
My interest was tentative, especially in Therapy? who had the good grace to release records at an amazingly regular rate through that year, most of which I was too slow to buy, although I did pull myself together to buy Opal Mantra on cassette, I didn't get a CD player until 1997, and this possibly accounts for why I have cherished the mixtape into the 21st Century.  For all my inconsistency in collecting their discography, I declared Therapy? as one of my favourite bands.  They stood out next to the other two who I would confess an affection for at that time: Saint Etienne and Wet Wet Wet.  Yes, I know, but Cold Cold Heart (still) fucking slew me when I heard it and their Best Of, released that year (and this was pre-Love Is All Around) contained a treasure trove of pop-soul that was slick but completely lacking in any sense of calculation or contrivance, at least to my, then uncynical ears.
However, out of the three, Therapy? were who I'd have wanted to be.  They were one of the "personal" favourites "Personal" favourites are those bands that you would be if you had the ability to do what they've done.  I must confess to you that they aren't anymore.  Not like MarionThe MoveManfred Mann or The House of Love. still are with me, but they were the first band to drag me into the here and now musically, at the age (17) when my ears needed opening.  Typically, I was discovering them at the time that Peel was waving them goodbye, after 3 years of support, as they embarked on their major label sojourn, and yes, I did let myself down that summer when talking to people far more musically clued up than I was about Therapy? and they showing and playing me albums by them  that were up to 2 or 3 years old by mid '93.

Fantasy Bag comes from that period - a standout track on their mini-album for Southern Records called Pleasure Death.  A straight out serial killer POV track from the samples of people describing their crimes over the top of a bass line that sounds like the darkest stirrings of the engorged passions that could drive someone to kill, and that long drawn out whine of feedback, before launching headfirst into the two foundations of Therapy?'s sound: that star squealing guitar.  First heard around the 1:03 mark and so-called because it sounds like a player trying to scrunch together as many
celestial bodies as possible.  It's on many of Therapy?'s best early tracks and has only faded from
memory, because so many inferior nu-metal and nu-punk bands appropriated it at the start of the millennium. The other facet is Andy Cairns's voice, which could turn on a dime from scuzzy blues man to panicked and shattered tenor. At times, Cairns even looked like a backwoods serial killer, but he sang like a man constantly trying to reconcile why he had a bloodied meat cleaver in his hands.  That sense of terrible deeds having been committed and not understanding or knowing why.  "I can't wait to get away" indeed.

Video courtesy of Therapy Question Mark.

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