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cairns' acoustic sets offer pure musical therapy

WHEN an act's musical career has, to a large extent, been based on power and vibrant noise, it can come as a shock to the system when all the bells and whistles are stripped away and the songs revealed in their rawest form.

The MTV Unplugged format in the mid-90s probably kickstarted the trend for bands whipping out the acoustic guitars and getting a hot-looking cellist or two on board to prove they weren't just hell-for-leather merchants.

REM and, particularly, Nirvana benefited nicely from the practice, but by the time we were getting around to the likes of The Corrs going unplugged (were they ever plugged-in in the first place?) surely we'd reached the end of the line.

Well, the answer is, not really, given the old dictum that a good song can be played in any form still very much holds, which is why it should be interesting to see how Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns fares with his solo acoustic shows.

Although they could turn up the volume with the best – and indeed worst – of the metal bands, Therapy? always had a melodic streak that recalled the post-punk pop sensibilities of the band's native Northern Ireland.

Dig down to the very bare bones of famous tracks such as Screamager, Nowhere, Die Laughing and Trigger Inside and you'll find smartly-constructed tunes that could be played in pretty much any format without the need for a great deal of tinkering.

The mechanics of touring with a full band is an expensive and complicated business, but by heading out with just a few guitars Cairns not only gets to keep his hand, he also gets an opportunity to try out some new stuff, too.


On his recent jaunt through Finland, Therapy? songs from all periods of the band's career were given an airing – even back to the days of Meat Abstract and Potato Junkie (that Joyce-referencing chorus was a model for a crowd singalong) – alongside covers of Joy Division's Isolation, the Husker Du song Diane and old punk favourites from GBH and the Misfits.

That sounds like a recipe for a pretty good night out to me.

Andy Cairns plays Whelan's on Wednesday.

>george byrne