With a career straddling 21 years, Somerset prog outfit The Pineapple Thief have not, when compared with better-known names of orchestral rock from Muse via Elbow to Biffy Clyro, attracted much in the way of recognition. But nor have they sought it, which makes them something of a mystery to new listeners.
Versions Of The Truth is The Pineapple Thief’s 13th album, and this longevity is down to founder Bruce Soord, whose non-stop work ethic has resulted in a considerable body of material. Soord is the longest serving member and was entirely responsible for the first two albums, Abducting The Unicorn and 137, before forming a band proper in 2002. Soord took time after 2018’s Dissolution to embark on his third solo album titled All This Will Be Yours.
Back with the band, his latest release goes somewhat against the traditional prog grain. It falls short of the expected running time of prog rock, for starters – no 10+ minute epics, no far-reaching solos – but this doesn’t affect the album’s configuration. Its shorter running time allows each track to hit. The album sets hard alternative rock up with the polymathic genius of experimental instrumentation and produces something both credible and demonstrably well crafted.
The eponymous opener riotously wages war, with raging guitar riffs gnawing against the powerful strikes of drums and electric piano to create a cyclone of rackety music. The addition of what sounds like marimba reinforces the elemental feel of the track, with rain and wind colliding. This surreal atmosphere, evident early on in the album, also comes through in Soord’s lyrics, with the opener hinting at post-truth visions, and the sound clash reinforcing a concept of opposites. Demons reflects pain and the effects of toxic relationships, summed up in the lyric “It was only supposed to be a short-term thing”. The poignancy of the lyrics is underlined with drawn-out instrumentation that makes for a restless listen.
Driving Like Maniacs departs from the prog route altogether and chooses harmony over cacophony. Soord’s brooding yet mellow vocals demonstrate his versatility. The same can be said for Too Many Voices, which harmonically lifts the mood. The prog cards are back in play on the (merely) seven-minute epic Our Mire, with a melding of influences in evidence – traditional Canterbury prog rock, together with King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, who were at the forefront of the symphonic approach to rock. Here fuses the mystery of prog with its mythical symbolism, and an orchestral might that plays a coarse beat.
The Pineapple Thief’s latest work is a positive reflection of prog rock in the 21st century asserting, after all this time, how underrated they are. Let them be a mystery no more: on Versions Of The Truth, this band bear the torch of prog rock, and it burns still.