18 August 2010

CD REVIEW: The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here is Missing (2010, KScope)

I have twice offered up slightly extended bits of opinion on The Pineapple Thief.

For those of you not patient enough to trawl through the archives (or too busy to use the handy dandy search tool on the right hand side), here are those thoughts, in brief:

1) In their own way, The Pineapple Thief is a progressive rock band, even as their music draws from the indie and post rock scene more than traditional symphonic rock. While Bruce Soord’s vocals are every bit as self aware and self conscious as many of the 1980’s neo-proggers, they are set against a musical backing that has more in common with bands like Radiohead and their ilk. As such, they’re seen as prog-lite by many, and not prog at all by an equal group.

3000 Days (2009, KScope Records) is a 2-CD set compiling the band’s chosen best moments from a career that has spanned close to the 3000 days referenced in the album’s title. Featuring some remixes, alternate versions, and so on, it’s a career spanning retrospective that offers long time fans a little bit new while presenting a fairly complete look at what the band has achieved since spinning off the group Vulgar Unicorn. As such, it’s a perfect way to become acquainted with a group that certainly merits a closer look by fans of the more melodic side of progressive rock. Don’t be afraid that there aren’t mellotrons akimbo and lyrics about fantasy subjects…drink deep of a dark and melancholy musical draught that would make the members of Anekdoten or Landberk green with envy.

(http://billsprogblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/cd-reviews-pineapple-thief-and-knight.html , 21 Nov 2009)

2) Band 2 on day 3 was THE PINEAPPLE THIEF from the UK. I have 2 of their albums…the 2 CD compilation 3000 Days and the newest studio album Someone Here is Missing. I was somewhat less than impressed with the albums after repeated listens, but still was hoping that perhaps the band would be more energetic on stage. I went in with no expectations of hopes, and discovered something…it is in fact possible to have zero expectations and still not have them met. It was shoegazer music of the worst kind, with whiny vocals and a plodding morose mid tempo beat that only succeeded in beating into my head just how gray their music is. I don’t mind maudlin, morose music…I love the darker Cure stuff, and Depeche Mode, and Radiohead, and so on, but this was just blah in extremis. Comparing them to Radiohead is an insult…to Radiohead. In the end, and trying to say something positive…I enjoyed every minute of their performance…that I spent outside, getting fresh air. I didn’t like them, and am not ashamed to admit it.

(http://billsprogblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/nearfest-2010the-last-5-bands.html , 24 Jun 2010)

This is a review of Someone Here is Missing, their newest album. Where does my opinion lie, taking in what I wrote above?

Honestly, somewhere in the middle.

Time and repeated listens to the band have not brought me close to loving them; I find their weaknesses continue to be weaknesses, while I simply cannot connect with what others hear as strengths. I can’t say they write meandering, overlong songs, because they don’t. I can’t say that they are amateurish in playing their instruments, because they are not. But I listen, and everything remains a flat shade of grey coming out of the speakers. I feel like I am missing something…and so I put the CD in again. And again. Each time I hope to hear something that I missed before…and each time the CD ends, I scratch my head. And I then look at the very cool Hipgnosis cover, sigh, and try again.

Bruce Soord is earnest; I believe that when he is singing he is living every bit of emotion that comes dripping off each tortured word he sings. His guitar playing is energetic and almost thrashy in a way…he pounds out chord after chord with raw abandon. Thankfully, the songs on Someone Here is Missing tend to be a bit more upbeat and uptempo rhythmically than on past efforts, and Keith Harrison and Jon Sykes do a good job ratcheting up the pace on drums and bass. Steve Kitch is more of a texturalist on keys than a soloist, and as a result his playing is not always immediate and in your face. I suppose it’s that, combined with the somewhat more depressing, melancholy lyrical viewpoints (and, admittedly, the slower pace of a good bit of their older material) that brought the Porcupine Tree comparisons to the fore. I still don’t see or hear those comparisons at all; nor do I see the comparisons to Radiohead or Coldplay as valid. The Pineapple Thief doesn’t sound like any of these bands; they sound like themselves, and that is something worth emphasising.

Having gotten this far, and given my proclivity for voicing my opinion of this band without hesitation on other forums, I suppose it is natural that one would think this review would only be filled with bashing and criticism and embellished, exaggerated claims about how Someone Here is Missing destroyed my childhood. But I can’t and won’t do that. Not only is it a degree of irreverence I find distasteful, it’s not at all wholly true. There are a few songs on here that I feel stand out above the crowd on this release. I do like the opening of ‘Nothing at Best,’ which had me thinking that we had a full on rock album coming out from these guys, and gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I’d have a breakthrough with them. ‘The State We’re In,’ despite the melancholy, is a gorgeous song, and it almost sounds orchestrated. Vocals are layered, and add dimension and depth to the song. This is one I like a lot.

Sadly, it’s followed by the 7 and a half minute dirge ‘Preparation for Meltdown.’ Less said the better.

‘Barely Breathing’ is another very pretty song, with acoustic guitar, piano, laid back drumming, and fragile Soord vocals. And it seems odd, doesn’t it, that the two songs I single out are laid back, when I had said that I was hoping for some balls and rock on this album? I’m not sure what to make of it either, other than to say that I have returned to the 3000 Days compilation, as well as a few other discs that I’ve borrowed from friends following the NEARfest performance, to see how my opinions had changed, and found that they really haven’t. While I still feel that TPT is overly melancholy to the point of sameness, I can’t fault these two tracks, I do find them to be the ones I like the most on the album, and they still account for only a little more than seven minutes of a 45 minute long album.

I hate writing reviews that reek of negativity. While I won’t say good things about an album just to say good things about them, I do try to be fair and balanced in what I write (and that’s fair and balanced before the term was co-opted by an entirely different element of ‘journalism,’ for whom fair and balanced is only lip service). I know that there are thousands of Pineapple Thief fans out there who genuinely love what they write, record and release, and for them this review will mean nothing. For everyone else, well...I just don’t see the fascination, the appeal, whatever. Someone Here is Missing won’t get that many spins from me here on out, but I may well add those two individual songs to my iPod to listen to when the mood hits me.

Track Listing:
1. Nothing At Best 4:08
2. Wake Up The Dead 4:23
3. The State We're In 3:18
4. Preparation For Meltdown 7:27
5. Barely Breathing 3:44
6. Show A Little Love 3:59
7. Someone Here Is Missing 3:52
8. 3000 Days 6:09
9. So We Row 8:16

Bruce Soord - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Jon Sykes - bass
Keith Harrison - drums
Steve Kitch - keyboards

1 comment:

Don said...

I'm in the same boat with TPT. I really do want to like them, but apart from individual songs here and there, nothing gets its hooks into me. "God Bless The Child" is the only thing they've done that's stuck with me.

I'll keep giving 3000 Days a spin, and maybe something else will eventually move me to further explore their back catalog, but who knows?