Album review: Therapy? – Hard Cold Fire

Irish alt.rock legends Therapy? explore post-pandemic challenge on reliably rugged, sharply observed 16th album…

Album review: Therapy? – Hard Cold Fire
Steve Beebee

Nobody’s going to forget it. In July 2021, Mikey Evans and Max Rhead did the impossible – they staged a three-day rock festival at a time when artists had all but forgotten what an audience looked like. Of all the bands that played that year’s Steelhouse – all wide-eyed, a few in tears – no-one judged the mood better than Therapy?. They knew that we were pissed off, scared, sad, relieved, in disbelief, grateful – a unique clusterbomb of mangled, mingled emotion.

The band have eagerly stated that Hard Cold Fire isn’t a lockdown album – and that’s the whole point. It’s a riffy, angry, blunt instrument smashing its way out of that seemingly eternal season of silent void. True, not all these 10 songs are gonna be fan-favourites, but this return at least partly captures the sense of catharsis brought so brilliantly to that stage in South Wales.

The fabulously named Poundland Of Hope And Glory is Therapy? at their most instant, caffeine bomb addictive – it sneers at you with head-snapping tuneage. Right after it, Ugly combines frontman Andy Cairns’ almost uncomfortably self-effacing lyrics - 'I punch myself in the face cause I’m unworthy of your love' – with the type of hook delivery that most people love about his anything-but-ugly talent. To Disappear, Woe and Joy are other examples of songs that hit deep and hard, dark feelings explored, challenged and explosively let go. Yes, there’s a few like Bewildered Herd that don’t achieve the musical highs to match Andy’s captivating words, but this sense of propulsion from a band so lived-in as Therapy? is still some achievement.

Few are going to pretend that Hard Cold Fire is the veteran trio’s best album – that accolade quite obviously belongs to 1994’s breakout classic Troublegum. But the band’s most important album since then? You bet.

Verdict: 3/5

For fans of: Nirvana, Royal Blood, Deftones

Hard Cold Fire is released on May 5 via Marshall

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