Oxford Zodiac

... [I]he [/I]is in the audience - a collective 'oof' is masked by juddering guitars - and we are hollering every line from [B]'Screamager'[/B] at him. Oxford is as happy as a pig in shit.

Towards the end, Andy Cairns has given up on singing altogether. He stands, surveying the flushed youth of Oxford, lips forming the fish-mouthed rock 'O' that makes him look a bit simple in photographs. And suddenly, the mic stand is in the audience, he is in the audience - a collective 'oof' is masked by juddering guitars - and we are hollering every line from 'Screamager' at him. Oxford is as happy as a pig in shit. Not many bands can get away with the messy, matey democracy that Therapy? do tonight. Metal audiences are legendarily loyal, but Therapy?'s fans have been through a lot. They have had cellos foisted upon them. They have witnessed the peaks of '94s 'Troublegum' - all melodic punk accessibility - slump to the low point of '98s 'Semi-Detached', a half-assed album that saw the band retreat to the more understanding embrace of an indie. Last autumn's 'Suicide Pact: You First' consequently owed as much to Beefheart and The Jesus Lizard as it did to production line riff-rock. But tonight, even such sonic challenges as 'Wall Of Mouths' are greeted with aerobic joy. Volume, after all, is a great healer, and Therapy? are old hands. The overdoses aren't pretty, mind. Therapy?'s ritual slaughter of H|sker D|'s 'Diane' robs it of any dignity'. In a frenzy of guitar overkill, 'Teethgrinder''s chorus is, like a dental scan, the only clue to its identity. An absence of volume, though, is much much worse, as evinced by Therapy?'s Ulster-themed ballad 'Six Mile Water'. But for all their sins, Therapy? are saved when they crank it up right, as on 'Little Tongues First' or the instrumental intro of 'Big Cave In'; cleansed by the communion of clear-cut loud guitar and wide-eyed belief. And so we forgive them, time and again.

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