Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Pineapple Thief
Someone Here is Missing
Kscope Records
Rating: 4.5/5

Having only recently discovered The Pineapple Thief through the (excellent) Kscope podcasts, I had no idea what to expect from their new LP. With only ‘Nothing at Best’, the opener, to go by, I was expecting an album of Vex Red electronica with touches of Porcupine Tree- progressive, shades of Radiohead or Muse and a few long instrumental sections.

Of course, it doesn’t sound like that. In fact, it kind of sounds like what I imagine Porcupine Tree would sound like if they’d started in 1999 instead of 1989 (or thereabouts)- and that isn’t just because Bruce Soord’s voice bears some resemblance to Steven Wilson’s. The reason Porcupine Tree have finally (rightly) taken the mantle of kings of modern progressive is because they spent ten years absorbing and synthesising contemporary music influences- the music of the 90s, in other words, with their original influences- psych and prog, presumably.

The Pineapple Thief sound like they’ve grown up with Pink Floyd and Nirvana rather than Pink Floyd and King Crimson- rather than sounding like they’ve absorbed from their surroundings, they sound like they were already kind of there, and have simply taken some time to hone their big ideas into the right package. Sure, there are some octave chords and post-2000 Massive Attack moments; I would be surprised if one of them didn’t own a copy of Team Sleep, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that by being more urgent, aggressive, and perhaps a handful of years more contemporary, they sound like that most rare of musical entities- a young progressive rock band. More than that, they are really talented too. And accessible. Progressive? Accessible? “Surely not!” I hear you cry, but believe me, if you can’t get into Someone Here is Missing, you are never going to get leftfield guitar music.

So a quick look at the tracks then: ‘Nothing at Best’ is hands down the best song on display here. It’s so good I could talk about it all day, so go and find it and have a listen. ‘Wake Up the Dead’, from a ponderous bit of strange percussion and synth bass suddenly explodes into a maelstrom of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ mid-career frantic Muse chord-work, while ‘Preparation for Meltdown’ effortlessly moves from post-rock breakdown to Vex industrial grunge crescendo and back again, before closing with a Now Here is Nowhere-era TSM outro. After the intensity of the opening four tracks, the acoustic ballad ‘Barely Breathing’ seems ill-placed, but soon TPT are playing to their strengths again with ‘Show a Little Love’, ‘Someone Here is Missing’, and ‘3000 Days’, the second best cut on the album. Oddly enough, the ‘chorus’ (I suppose) figure reminds me of a similar repeated section in label-mates North Atlantic Oscillation’s ‘Alexanderplatz’. Who cares. It’s bloody cool, and the swooping descent is a rush not unlike the timeless chorus of the Pumpkins’ ‘Tonight, Tonight’; breathlessly exciting and cinematically epic.

The album closes on an acoustic reworking of ‘Nothing at Best’. When I first saw this, I couldn’t believe it- album consistency gone! Why didn’t they end it on obligatory 9-minute workout ‘So We Row’? Why did I buy the Limited Edition? (Etc.) When I actually got around to it however, I discovered a tasteful version of the track that works to bookend the album much in the same way as ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ and acoustic version ‘The Giantess’ do on the first Bombay Bicycle Club album. Fantastic.

At its best, this is music to fall in love to; dramatic, evocative and emotive. At its worst (very occasionally, I might add), it’s plodding and repetitive, blighted by trappings of modern prog; lacking clear melody and either verging on metal or sub-Sonic Youth atonal musings. Between the two extremes, it’s still an album to fall in love with.

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