PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Pineapple Thief Explore 'Versions of the Truth'

Photo: Diana Seifert / Courtesy of Secret Service Publicity

The conceptual focus of Versions of the Truth and the tight interplay between the musicians mark a new creative high for the Pineapple Thief, easily their best since Magnolia.

Versions of the Truth
The Pineapple Thief


4 September 2020

When it comes to post-OK Computer English rock music, the Pineapple Thief haven't garnered the mainstream success of groups like Muse, Elbow, and Coldplay. Yet the Pineapple Thief, led by frontman and principal songwriter Bruce Soord, have quietly and at a steady clip compiled one of the most impressive discographies out of all their contemporaries. Beginning with 2008's Tightly Unwound, the pace has been a new album every two years. The latest, Versions of the Truth, marks the 13th studio outing for this perennially underrated English outfit.

If one were to hear segments of the Pineapple Thief's strongest LPs – 2010's Someone Here Is Missing and 2014's Magnolia, by this critic's lights – they might understandably wonder why Soord and his bandmates aren't used to selling out arenas by this point. Those most likely to know the group are those in the progressive rock community, as all of the Pineapple Thief's records since Tightly Unwound have been recorded for the Kscope label, home to other prog luminaries like Porcupine Tree and Anathema. Compositionally, Soord strikes a more mainstream-friendly version of the balance that defines progressive-tilting British rock: technically intricate instrumentation and melancholic emotion, cerebral yet immediate rock 'n' roll. Tunes like "Show a Little Love" (from Someone Here is Missing) and "Alone at Sea" (from Magnolia) would have been believable chart hits had the chips fallen a certain way.

Soord's skill as a songwriter is building elaborate songs from within the verse/chorus structure; even when the instrumentals reach their most complex moments, they rarely get lost in the noodling that plagues prog rock at its worst. A ten-minute epic like "White Mist" on Dissolution (2018) feels expansive in the way that the best progressive music can be, while at the same time always staying close to the core hook that runs throughout the song. More than any act in the prog world, Pineapple Thief are best poised for crossover success, even if the days where sad rock music played by white British men dominated the charts is ever receding.

That opportunity grew even stronger in 2016 when the band brought Gavin Harrison aboard to man the drum kit. Harrison rose to prominence as the drummer for Porcupine Tree beginning with that group's landmark disc In Absentia (2002). As a drummer, his trademark is a kind of surgical precision in his playing that can switch on a dime from headbanging riff sections to gentle, jazz-inflected moments of respite. Your Wilderness, Harrison's first album with the Pineapple Thief, showed real promise for his role in the band. Songs like "In Exile" and "Tear You Up" benefit from his unique rhythmic designs, notably the tom work on the bridge to the former. Yet on that LP and its follow-up, Dissolution, Harrison's presence doesn't quite settle into the existing Pineapple Thief sound. Particularly on Your Wilderness, his distinctive drumming style feels like an enhancement of the music, rather than an integral ground-up component. But on Dissolution, Harrison starts to acclimate, especially on "White Mist", to date one of the band's finest pieces.

Now, on Versions of the Truth, the Pineapple Thief emerge as a fully cohesive unit with Harrison, his approach to percussion now naturally aligned with Soord's songwriting. The title track, an instant classic for the band, anchors itself on a repeating lyric that connects with the theme of "post-truth" that runs throughout the record: "It's not how I remember it." Over five serpentine minutes, "Versions of the Truth" seems like it will arrive at a chorus, but it never quite does. Like a puzzle, the song defines itself through its contrasting sections rather than a standard verse/chorus configuration. A hypnotic marimba figure leads at one point, accented by Harrison's gentle yet tension-building cymbal work, while late in the piece, heavy riffs clash against a descending and discordant piano line. The juxtaposition of the mercurial song structure and the repeated "not how I remember it" refrain literalizes the notion of conflicting truths.

Here, and on songs like "Break It All" and the contemplative "Driving Like Maniacs", the lyrics explore the ramifications of divergent truths colliding in people's lives, with Soord treating "post-truth" as a metaphor for interpersonal dynamics rather than a vehicle for political commentary. The conceptual focus of Versions of the Truth and the tight interplay between Soord, Harrison, Jon Sykes (bass), and Steve Kitch (keyboards), mark a new creative high for the band, easily their best since Magnolia.

Although the Pineapple Thief has undeniable "prog" chops, Soord, as a songwriter, prefers concision and focus. Even the most indulgent guitar solo or instrumental break on a Pineapple Thief record will typically amount to a quarter of what the Dream Theater-aping guitarists of the world would allow themselves to do. This songwriting approach holds on Versions of the Truth. With it clocking in at around 45 minutes and an average song length of four and a half minutes, the record offers a lot to those who seek more adventurous rock music without committing themselves to odysseys of time signature changes.

The seven-minute "Our Mire" cribs from the ambitious structure of "White Mist" a little less successfully, but it features some of Harrison's sharpest drumming. The way the clean, echoey guitar lead on "Out of Line" halts before a section of quiet keyboard plinking is just one case in point for the Pineapple Thief's skill in establishing dynamic distinctions. Alongside these unshowy-yet-virtuosic moments sit some of the most accessible tunes of this group's career, like lead single "Demons" and "Leave Me Be".

Frontloading proves to be the only notable folly of Versions of the Truth. The strongest cuts all appear in the first five tracks. The back half features some experiments that don't quite pan out, like the Elbow-esque mid-tempo of "Too Many Voices" and the contemplative "Stop Making Sense", which, instead of paying tribute to the Talking Heads, brings back the marimba from the title track to an atmospheric yet fleeting effect. Those moments, however, do not detract from the overall success of the album. It's a musical portrait of a band that continue to deepen their sound after decades of making music.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.