The Pineapple Thief have spent much of the last 25 years caught between a rock and a hard place: too proggy for the rock crowd, too rocky for the prog crowd. Despite that, frontman and creative engine Bruce Soord has quietly built up an impressive body of work, somewhere between the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and fellow square pegs Porcupine Tree.
How Did We Find Our Way charts the first chapter of their career, bringing together their first five albums and two bonus EPs and plus odds and sodas, some of which was recorded when The Pineapple Thief were still Soord’s one-man project rather than an actual band. Originally released via influential UK underground label Cyclops, here they’re repackaged across eight CDs in a vinyl-sized box set whose stylish design subtly signals ‘art rock’ rather than ‘prog’.
That latter tag was always off target anyway. The Pineapple Thief weren’t averse to busting out some long tracks, such as the slow-burning 19-minute Parted Forever from 1999’s debut album Abducting The Unicorn (included here in its original form rather than the remixed and retitled 2017 version released as Abducted At Birth), or a vaguely highbrow concept (Soord gave himself one day to record each track on 8 Days, the soundtrack-esque instrumental bonus EP released with 2002’s Variations On A Dream).
But those musical adventures are outweighed by the frontman’s knack for crisp, direct songs that wouldn’t have sounded out of place next to Britpop-era mavericks Mansun or The Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan’s influence is imprinted a little too heavily on some of the earlier material collected here).
The Pineapple Thief’s fourth album, 2005’s 10 Stories Down, was a watershed for Soord, marking the point where his one man operation became something closer to an actual band. The addition of keyboard player and engineer Steve Kitch helped widen his horizons, the insular atmospheres of what came before bulked out into a bolder, more confident sound. That album’s Wretched Soul is a burst of grinding art-grunge noise, while 2006’s follow-up Little Man is an emotionally raw, sometimes painful meditation on loss, pain and healing drawn from personal experience – a place Bruce Soord might have struggled to go to just a few years earlier.
The Pineapple Thief were always more tortoise than hare, taking the slow and steady route to wider recognition. How Did We Find Our Way is a welcome look back on those first steps that got them there.