Andy Cairns’ parents thought he had it made. He was charting himself a well-plotted life, as promising as it gets in his native Belfast.
Such a good lad.
The short-haired, bespectacled teenager was working the assembly-line routine at a Michelin Tires plant. The job itself was monotonous, but because of the odd hours, the pay was decent.
“I had quite a bit of money and a nice apartment and a car, just the sort of things mothers and fathers like to see their sons have,” Cairns said.
Then, like the standard rock ‘n’ roll story, Cairns fell in love with his guitar, grew his hair long and joined a punk rock band.
Oh, the horror.
“My mom’s like, ‘He’s flipped. What kind of drugs is he on?’ ” Cairns said, laughing back at his rock ‘n’ roll crossroads.
He can snicker now because the singer-guitarist’s sonic-booming band, Therapy?, is chewing up rock conformity and spitting it out with its second A&M album, “Troublegum,” due Feb. 8.
Shrugging off its initial industrial past, leaving behind the sampling and constant chord changes, Therapy? creates even more powerful guitar noise – could it get any louder?! – and draws upon its many influences, from Big Black to Bob Mould.
“It’s more of a rock ‘n’ roll record,” Cairns said from a London hotel room amid a promotional tour. “The songs are all about three minutes long. It’s all very direct. It’s not clinical and distant.”
In the process, Therapy? – with bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Fyfe Ewing – continues to twist the Irish rock scene in its own biting, black-humor way. There’s no confusing them with U2, the Hothouse Flowers or Van Morrison. They have cornered their homeland’s post-punk market.
“We’re not the first ones,” Cairns said, citing an ear-splitting wave in the ’70s with Stiff Little Fingers and Thin Lizzy. “When we started out, though, everyone thought we were American. Our role models were Black Flag, Husker Du and Big Black. Even so more now than then, we sounded very American.
“When we started the band (in ’89), no one was really interested in hard-core music as such. Many of the punk bands in Ireland were more influenced by English bands like the U.K. Subs. We were more into American punk bands, partly because it was more inventive and a bit more tuneful as well.”
What makes Therapy? stand above some of its ice-cold, droning counterparts?
“I think we’re more human,” Cairns said. “We tend to have feelings of anger, love, happiness, joy, despair, whereas some of the industrial bands sound like robots, very emotionless.”
More updates: Avalon, Tami Neilson, Beach Slang, BRKN Love, Mary J. Blige, Bing Crosby, Change, etc
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc