Psycho-Therapy? Anyone?

The Y2K bug may have turned out to be a bust, but the dawn of the new millennium sure has put a bug up the collective fannies of Ireland's Therapy?

If you'll recall, way back there in the last century (somewhere around 1994), these boys seemed primed for rock supremacy with the release of their classic Troublegum disc — a particularly potent brand of pop/punk/metal, shot through with a splash of psychic bleakness that meshed well with the prevailing grunge winds of the day. UK hits followed, and North American success seemed only another great album away.

Unfortunately, 1995's artistically compromised Infernal Love wasn't that album, and Therapy? began a slow fade that lasted the rest of the decade, culminating in the demise of their record company (A&M) and, it seemed, their career. All of which makes this new Therapy? release, on Ark21, such a revelation. Against all odds, they have somehow recaptured their artistic demon on this nasty little disc — and that may be due to leader Andy Cairns' acknowledged recent immersion in the collected works of Iggy Pop and the Stooges.

The best stuff here — "Wall of Mouths," "Jam Jar Jail" (RealAudio excerpt) and the irresistible garage-rocker "Sister" (RealAudio excerpt) — all roar with the ferocity of prime Therapy?, eschewing the rigid song structures of the past in favor of a newfound looseness (not to be confused with mere sloppiness). The overall feel of the album recalls the Motor City, pedal-to-the-metal crunch of such Stooges' Funhouse classics as "Down in the Street" and the appropriately named "Loose," whilst also at times conjuring up the past glories of Therapy's fellow rocking Irishmen, Thin Lizzy.

Furthermore, when Therapy? do decide to get off the main highway of four-on-the-floor rock (a trip that's proved bumpy in the past), this time the wheels don't fall off. "Six Mile Water" (RealAudio excerpt) is a forlorn ballad whose swampy atmospherics recall the similar spaghetti-goth ventures of those lovable scarecrows Nick Cave and Polly Harvey. In the same vein, "God Kicks," in which a gravel-throated Cairns makes Tom Waits sound like a soprano, is a dead-end tale told by a wanderer of the wasteland, much like the washed-up prizefighter from Hemingway's "The Battler" — a man who has stared into the abyss so long that it's now become a part of him. "God kicks with both feet/ And keeps his shoes clean," growls Cairns, as cellist Martin McCarrick provides a suitable John Cale–like drone in the background.

Suicide Pact: You First thus provides true therapy for rock fans tired of what Cairns recently described in Metal Hammer as the "fucked-up childhood, big-shorts rock" world of sports-metal, the purveyors of which are addressed in the album's title. Rather than whining about life's darkness, Therapy? embrace it here with a big, sloppy kiss on the lips — and with the motor running. No, rock ain't dead just yet. And neither are Therapy?, it seems.