Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Philadelphia Review On Pineapple Thief's Someone Here Is Missing


The Pineapple Thief was always a band who wore their influences on their sleeve. However, even with undeniable similarities to Radiohead, Ozric Tentacles, and Porcupine Tree, they consistently deliver catchy, emotive songwriting and progressive rock innovation. Someone Here is Missing places some new production techniques over their trademark qualities, solidifying their status as a very special group with some very moving and exciting music.

Formed at the end of the 90s, the history of The Pineapple Thief is also similar to fellow English act Porcupine Tree. Creative mastermind Bruce Soord released two solo albums under the name (which grew a cult following) and eventually he decided to turn TPT into a real band. Since then, they’ve released several albums and EPs, with 2008’s Tightly Unwound easily being their best yet (it’s really a great album). With Someone Here is Missing, Soord wanted to craft “a record of dark edges, full of love and regret; my life in the last eighteen month pretty much.” It carries the juxtaposing beautiful heartache and thunderous jams we’ve come to expect, albeit with a new coating of keyboards and sampling.

Someone Here is Missing opens with “Nothing At Best,” a pounding combination of electronica and rock that bares comparison to Muse. Of course, Soord’s vocals are always more subdued and fragile than Matthew Bellamy, and his songwriting is always more subtle (not to discredit Muse, who are great as well). Lyrically, Soord has a habit of mixing the sadness of an ended relationship with simple threats against his ex, and this holds true here with lines like “Just stay with me tonight? And I will bury you along with our lives.” It’s a thrilling way to start the record.

“Wake Up The Dead” feels like a continuation as it maintains the aforementioned electro/rock aesthetic. Here, Soord vows to understand the subject’s suicide (who he’s speaking to is anyone’s guess). His vocal is smoother here, and the music is a bit more sparse and ominous, focusing on an intriguing drum beat, harsh guitar riffs and sound loops. “The State We’re In” is where Soord lets all of his glorious melancholy shine. A very affective melody (which is certainly a trademark of TPT) is complemented by the tapping of high hats, guitar (of course), orchestration and piercing falsetto harmony (another trademark). Soord is best when he bares his soul behind lush production, and this track is a great example of that.

A hypnotic guitar line and more sound loops invite Soord to mix a bit more anger with his betrayal on “Preparation for Meltdown.” Again, as listeners, we hang on his every word, imagining how we’d feel if dealt the same hand in life. An aggressive crash of rock segments the quieter verses, and a stunning blend of synthesizers adds to its evolution. Things settle down for the middle section, allowing Soord to sing alone momentarily before a buzz saw guitar and programmed drums build things up again. It’s wonderful noise.

An acoustic guitar and piano welcome us into “Barely Breathing,” another tear jerker. With its gorgeous melody (sung perfectly, of course), warm instruments and subtle orchestration, it’s easily one of the best songs on the album, if not TPT’s entire career. Still holding on to memories of waking up in love and regretting what he did to screw it up, Soord agonizes about how he could never “make it up to you, my love.” A great artist can harbor on the same themes and topics for their entire career and always keep it interesting. TPT certainly do.

Heading back into more destructive rock, “Show a Little Love” excels as a great example of dynamics. The verse is calm and the chorus is heavy, almost like a rollercoaster carrying different levels of intensity. As always, they use distinctive timbres to keep their freak outs unique. “Someone Here is Missing” is another somber ballad that will stay with you for awhile. A simple acoustic introduction leads into the more catchy and forceful verse and chorus. Soord’s voice cracks as he lets his passion excel his range, but that’s the sign of a true artist, and it’s the type of song that unveils more layers and textures upon repeated listening.

“3000 Days” (which shares its name from the fantastic double disc retrospective released almost a year ago) brings back the slightly psychedelic guitar tone TPT used a lot in the past. Its rhythmic melody is quite catchy and the chorus features harmony just audible enough to make it stand out. More trademark timbres highlight the guitar and keyboard accompaniment and it carries a great vibe that makes you want to blast it through speakers.

Several of The Pineapple Thief’s outputs conclude with an epic track, and “So We Row” is no exception. At almost ten minutes, it’s absolutely the most bombastic, heavily produced and progressive track. Beginning with guitar, drums, synths, horns and other percussion playing around of 7/4, we already know that the song is going to erupt into progressive rock madness by the end. Soord’s vocals are confident and feature several overdubs as the instrumental tension increases. Things calm down in that typical psychedelic/prog fashion of putting layers of odd sounds and echoes over the ambience (surely an intermission before a complex eruption). A minute or two later, this explosion occurs as the same instruments keep pounding away, this time with louder horns. Soon Soord reprises his melody, first unaccompanied but soon joined by vocal countermelodies (which is a very interesting trick). The final seconds consist of Soord singing “So we row” acappella. It’s an impressive closer.

If there are any gripes I have with Someone Here is Missing, it’s that it’s simply not as progressive and complex as what we’d expect. On previous albums, TPT would really go into new territory and show some really interesting arpeggio ideas and skill at their instruments. This album seems to lack that a bit, fitting more into a standard rock criteria. Also, the songs just aren’t as affective and memorable as they should be. Don’t get me wrong, some of these tracks will become instant classics in their catalogue and deserve to be considered amongst the best, but other tracks don’t satisfy expectations. Check out “Tightly Wound” for a great example of how the two sides of TPT combine expertly.

Someone Here is Missing is another fine addition to discography of a very special band (there just isn’t another word as fitting to describe them). Again, while their sound may be largely similar to other bands, they way they construct their pieces are very unique, and Soord has an exceptional way of writing songs. Honestly, I think Tightly Unwound is definitely a better studio album and 3000 Days is a fantastic introduction for newcomers, but this one is well worth your attention too.