Prog caught The Pineapple Thief back in December at that snug London venue The Borderline, and nestled in their set were two notable new songs. One was Give It Back, an insistent bass-heavy piece with a quietly subversive rhythm, and the other was what would become the title track of album number nine. A beautiful, dolorous acoustic tune, All The Wars was, it emerges, written by linchpin Bruce Soord while imagining himself on his death bed, remembering the conflicts that marred his relationships with those close to him. Twelve months in the writing, much of the album is in this reflective vain.
The band have dialled down the more synth-based, post-rock flourishes of 2010’s Someone Here Is Missing here, opting for a bigger, live sound augmented by the strings of the Prague Philharmonic. Rolling in on a hefty guitar riff opener Burning Pieces sets the tone. ‘I let go of everything,’ sings Soord, ‘I bet my life on the sweetest thing/Does it mean that much to you?’.
His vocals throughout the album hit that sweet-spot between emotional vulnerability and intensity; a trembling lid on a boiling pot. Warm Seas dances on Keith Harrison’s skittering snare drum, before launching into a full-on rock riff with some savvy bass from John Sykes, then all the way back again.
The Thief’s sense of dynamics have always set them apart, this and the fascinating way they play with interesting time signatures. 7⁄8, 5⁄4 time and compound rhythms slide in and out, subtly tricking the ear but never alienating you from the human interest of the songs. That spiritual sense is there in the bewildered desperation of the deserted lover or friend in Last Man Standing, its gorgeous legato strings giving way to a series of Day In The Life-style orchestral orgasms. Build A World marries regretful lyrics to a big rock hook and earnest guitar line. As ever, Soord aims his axe more at the spleen than the jugular.
The Prague Philharmonic really come into their own on Reaching Out. Building on strings, then choir, then all-out rock, it takes the album to a breathless finish. All The Wars sounds rather low-key on first listen, but with every subsequent spin it lets you in deeper, revealing itself as an elegant, sophisticated work.
While not a radical change of direction for The Pineapple Thief, it certainly sees them playing to all their strengths. Moody and meaningful, introspective and universal, this might be the worst album to choose for the soundtrack to your next long dark night of the soul. Or it might just be the best.