Therapy? & The Membranes @ Engine Rooms, Southampton 20th Feb

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Words: Olde Nick
Live photos: Tess Donohoe

One of the highlights of 2014’s Sonisphere was Northern Irish trio Therapy? playing their hit 1995 album “Infernal Love” to a packed Bohemia tent – review here. The band were so bowled over by the reception that a full tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the LP was announced, and RockSins was there for a second helping!

The Engine Rooms is a rather cool venue in a converted industrial unit next to Southampton‘s busy international docks. Open pipes and air vent tubing along the walls and ceiling give a kind of sci-fi look, very appropriate for space-obsessed post-punks The Membranes (9). The band is led by eccentric bassist/vocalist John Robb, also known as a pop culture author and media pundit. You’ve probably seen him on those TV shows about how everything was better in the ’80s and ’90s! His own gang has been making a racket of its own for over three decades and a compelling cacophony it is. Drawing strongly on their epic latest album, 2015’s “Dark Matter/Dark Energy”, their short set managed to cover fast agit-punk, doom, drone and even a bit of grind. At one point it sounded like Tom Waits fronting Godflesh. That is a truly marvellous thing. If you’ve never heard of them before, join these space cadets and enjoy the ride!


In 1995 Belfast boys Therapy?(9) were at the peak of their career, commercially at least. Their album “Troublegum” spawned a series of chart hit singles around the world and the success of the LP, released on a major label, rocketed the band to the top of festival bills. They toured the world, counted Hollywood stars among their devoted fans and shared stages with acts including Metallica. Behind the scenes the band was at breaking point. Guitarist/singer Andy Cairns was in the midst of drink and drug-fuelled excess and relationships in the band were deteriorating under the relentless pressure such attention can bring. It was against this background that “Infernal Love” was produced. Very produced. Big sound, big string sections and big name DJ David Holmes providing atmospheric links between the tracks. Opening song “Epilepsy” begins with Cairns barking “I’ve got a problem!!!!” He wasn’t kidding.

Fast forward 20 or so years and how things have changed. Not only are all band members still alive but they are looking healthier than they did back in those dark days. Andy reminded the crowd about the past turmoil and with a huge grin declared the tour would be “a big feckin’ happy celebration” to lay those ghosts to rest. There was a knowing look as he roared “I’ve got a problem!!!” once more. There were also quips at his own expense introducing fantastically titled “Bowels of Love” and more knowing winks and chortles at the lyric, “Lips like bruised vulva, ass like Jesus’ feet… worth kissing…” Yes, really.

The mirth kicked up a gear when “Loose” was explained as “a song about tripping your tits off on ecstasy on a sunny day in the park!” One thing that had not changed is the haunting impact of “Diane”, a cover of the Husker Du song about the murder of a waitress. In the absence of a cellist Cairns sang accompanied only by some of the crowd, who joined in the chorus chant of her name.

After a short break the trio returned for a proper Saturday night shindig featuring songs from latest album “Disquiet” as well as classic fan favourites “Teethgrinder”, “Screamager” and “Potato Junkie”, with its infamous repeated roars of “James Joyce is fucking my sister!!!” The party was closed with “Knives” and “Nowhere” as early curfew meant everybody had to make way for another sci-fi link – “Red Dwarf”‘s Dave Lister, aka BBC DJ Craig Charles, who was waiting to host his Northern Soul night. What a smeg-head! 😉

Here’s the video for new single “Tides”, released on April 15th:

Therapy? is online at the official website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Upcoming UK live dates:

Fri 22nd April – Whitby Goth Weekend, Yorkshire WGW Tickets & details here.

Sat 18th June – Stone Free Festival @ o2 Arena, London Tickets and details here.

The Membranes are online at the official website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Check out the video for “The Universe Explodes…”

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