Review Summary: An amazing record filled with songs that define quality experimental rock music nowadays. It is darker, significantly more groove-oriented than their previous work, yet it superbly captures the energy of the band.
There are not many bands who are able to cope with the pressure of releasing newer and newer quality albums and remain fresh through the period of 20 years. Northern Ireland rockers Therapy? happen to belong to this small group of bands that do it. Despite the huge success of "Troublegum" back in 1994, they've never tried to make something similar to this cd. Their every album is different and has its own identity. To name only a few of their influences: they recorded heavy, yet melodic music with metal influences ("Semi-Detached"); they experimented with noise rock ("Suicide Pact - You First"); and they delved into the past of punk rock ("Shameless"). Their last several albums came in quick succession, but they decided to have a longer almost 2-year break before this one. The result is the record that feels more rounded and complex than their last lacklustre "One Cure Fits All". Their 12th full-length album "Crooked Timber" marks the band's comeback to experimental songwriting. It focuses more on the omnipresent groove and less on catchy melodies. It also has some post-punk references in common with an amazing 10-year-old "Suicide Pact - You First", but the band's reliance on the precise rhythm section dates back to their early hit "Nurse" and this record stays the closest to what they've done on "Crooked Timber". The band consists of guitarist/vocalist Andrew Cairns, drummer Neil Cooper and bassist Michael McKeegan.
This is a very exciting album to listen to because every song is different. It is visible the band didn't stick to one songwritng formula this time. The first six tracks are downright amazing showing the band constantly pushing bounderies and expanding their sound. It all starts with dense, claustrophobic “The Head That Tried To Strangle Itself”. Sparse verse builds to a nerve-racking pause in which Andy generates some single guitar sounds to make you even more furious. Then, the song sublimely climaxes with Andy screaming "A consciousness watching itself You plague me every single day". If you're a casual rock radio listener, you may not like it. The next song is much more approachable though. "Enjoy The Struggle" is a hardcore hit ideal for headbanging: the big rolling riff resembling Danzig backed by killer rhythm section dominates it. Following it, "Clowns Galore" is just pure genius with its hypnotizing drilling riff, a heavy punkish bass, snapping beats and perfectly placed harsh vocals. The next two tracks show the band from completely unknown side. Built on an addictive bass line, "Exiles" is much darker and more atmospheric than expected, while the ravy flow makes for another unique pattern in a wonderful title track chosen for the first single. Out of the 2nd half of the album two tracks really stand out. "I Told You I Was Ill" is a very well composed song with catchy chorus and heartfelt ending, whereas closer "Bad Excuse For Daylight" delights with unusual time signatures throughout. With a razor-sharp bass line transforming into a massive sludgy guitar riff and Cairns' superb uncaring delivery, this is arguably the best song on the album.
On the minus side, 10-minute-long "Magic Mountain" just builds and builds slowing the pace of the album. It is not a bad song per se and I'm sure it would be a valuable addition to some post-rock records, but here it seems out of place. Other than that, punky "Blacken the Page" is a pleasant song, but feels unremarkable being overshadowed by other far superior and less conventional tracks.
The outstanding musicianship of the whole trio is backed by a crystal clear production by Andy Gill. The sound is exceptional with bass and drum trackings being highlighted. The playing of endlessly inventive rhythm section paired with massive guitar riffs makes for a gripping listening experience alone. However, there is something more to this album. Andrew Cairns has improved a great deal as a writer. His lyrics for this record are inspired by philosophist Immanuel Kant, which basically means that they are more poetic, abstract and multi-dimensional than ever. This is especially visible in more experimental songs in which Cairns really excels creating memorable lyrics. The title of the record stems from a rather exquisite quote from Kant: "From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made".
"Crooked Timber" is an amazing record filled with songs that define quality experimental rock music nowadays. It is darker, significantly more groove-oriented than their previous work, yet it superbly captures the energy of the band and the sense of excess permeating on their almost every album. I have a strong feeling that these guys haven't said their last word yet.
Standout tracks: Bad Excuse For Daylight, Clowns Galore, Enjoy the Struggle, Crooked Timber, The Head That Tried To Strangle Itself, Exiles.