A high watermark of early alternative metal, Troublegum is a spectacular, powerful, clutter-free record. Densely packed at 14 songs in 40 minutes, there's sharpness on every level, demonstrating that the promise evidenced on Nurse was no mirage. Chris Sheldon's job on the boards provides separation among all the instruments, avoiding the mashed effect from Therapy?'s previous outings. Fyfe Ewing and Michael McKeegan basically do what they've been doing all along as a rhythm section, but the increased clarity really allows for one to fully appreciate their abilities. Andy Cairns' vocal range and ear for melody increase tenfold, and his guitar takes on countless tones and textures only hinted at before. Detractors might claim that the riffs are too predictable and too "metal," which is somewhat understandable but ultimately unfair. One could call them simple, and one could call them focused; it's more the latter. Since the songwriting is more direct and less concerned with merely knocking things out and stopping after three minutes or so, everything is fully formed and completely realized. It's the absolute opposite of aimless, which is something Therapy? was sometimes guilty of. There's much more variety, too. With each play, it becomes increasingly obvious that no two songs sound much like each other, yet each song hangs together to form a singular piece. Metal-phobes can't help but give in to the irresistable pop-punk hooks of "Screamager" and "Nowhere." An obvious influence is acknowledged in a storming version of Joy Division's "Isolation," which pays tribute and transforms at the same time. "Unrequited" can't be missed, featuring a rattling guitar riff that gets yanked away by a violent cello tug from Martin McCarrick.