The Pineapple Thief
British prog rock band the Pineapple Thief, led by founder and frontman Bruce Soord, have become one of the most restless rock outfits of the 21st century and, while spending years as a cult attraction, nonetheless possess a large following in Europe, Asia, and the United States. While the group's music is often likened to Radiohead's and Porcupine Tree's, the generalization falls far short in describing a constantly evolving sound that deftly balances sophisticated indie pop, theatrical rock, 21st century prog, textured electro-acoustic ambiences, and neo-psychedelia. While earlier recordings such as Variations on a Dream may have justified some critics' capacity for comparison to Porcupine Tree and other genre-bleeding acts, later recordings, such as 2008's Tightly Unwound -- their KScope debut -- showcased increasingly expansive pop songwriting that featured canny arrangements and advanced instrumental acumen. By the time they issued Magnolia in 2014, Soord and company had developed a flair for releasing conceptual album-length storytelling through well-crafted, hooky, instantly memorable episodic songs. Their sound took on a more rhythmic sensibility when King Crimson drummer Gavin Harrison joined the fold as a full-time member for Your Wilderness the following year. The band's fan base expanded to include fans across the globe whose tastes ran closer to indie rock than prog. Soord had been writing songs since the age of 11 as a way of making sense of the world. Born in Germany before moving to England, he began his professional career with longtime musical partner Neil Randall in the band Vulgar Unicorn. This collaboration produced three studio albums before he embarked on the Pineapple Thief endeavor, the name chosen after a scene from the 1997 independent film Eve's Bayou. As Soord's musical ambition and abilities grew, so did the band's membership. The Pineapple Thief's increasing and sometimes shifting personnel were chosen to fit various recording and touring projects. Dozens of albums later, the group have become one of the most popular prog rock bands on the European continent, and they've also developed a large following in Asia as well as a smaller but no less faithful one in the U.S. The Pineapple Thief have bridged the gaps between prog, indie rock, and sophisticated pop, drawing favorable comparisons to Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, and others thanks to albums such as 2007's What We Have Sown and 2010's Someone Here Is Missing. The Pineapple Thief's first album, Abducting the Unicorn, was released in 1999. Originally titled Abducted at Birth, the name was changed in order to connect the band to Soord's prior band, Vulgar Unicorn. Abducting featured a distinctly experimental sound, meandering over sonic terrain that incorporated synths, riffs, and a vocal delivery that recalled Thom Yorke or Steven Wilson. With each new release, the Radiohead and Porcupine Tree comparisons would only continue. After 2002's 137 and 2003's Variations on a Dream were issued, Soord realized that the Pineapple Thief had a legitimate future. He recruited a full band comprised of bassist Jon Sykes, guitarist Wayne Higgins, drummer Keith Harrison, and keyboardist Matt O'Leary. The newly formed quintet recorded TPT's fourth album, 12 Stories Down, which was later re-recorded and rearranged as 10 Stories Down. With the addition of the four extra members, the band's new sound was immediately apparent. Richer layers and a more muscular delivery created fuller atmospherics, drawing comparisons to another Radiohead progeny, Muse. At this time, O'Leary parted ways with TPT and was replaced by Stories producer Steve Kitch. Continuing with the Pineapple Thief's album-per-year model, Little Man appeared in 2006. The LP was more introverted and patient than prior releases, giving the group space to play with atmosphere and include more orchestral flourishes. After 2007's What We Have Sown, the band left their home at Cyclops Records and signed with KScope. Higgins parted ways with TPT in 2008, just before the release of Tightly Unwound. The album featured the song "Too Much to Lose," which was their longest song yet, clocking in at over 15 minutes. It would also be their most critically acclaimed release to date. A pair of EPs -- Dawn Raids 1 and 2 -- were issued in 2009, featuring songs from the Unwound sessions. After ten years and seven studio releases, the band released their first retrospective collection, 3000 Days, which included remasters of 20 tracks. For album eight, the aggressive Someone Here Is Missing, the Pineapple Thief incorporated a rougher edge and some outer-space programming, sounding more like Muse than Radiohead, especially on the propulsive album opener "Nothing at Best." The Show a Little Love EP and tour-exclusive Someone Here Is Alive recording were also issued in 2010 to round out the album's cycle. 2011 marked the first year in over a decade without a TPT release. They returned in 2012 with All the Wars, quickly followed by the Build a World EP and Live at the 013 in 2013. Founding drummer Harrison left the band in 2014, replaced by Dan Osborne. Seven months later, the moody Magnolia was released. It marked the highest U.K. chart debut for the band. For their 11th album, TPT recruited iconic prog drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), as well as Supertramp's John Helliwell on clarinet ("Fend for Yourself") and Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan), who brought in a string quartet. Both expansive and organic, Your Wilderness arrived in the summer of 2016. In February of the following year, the band gave the final show of their European tour at Islington Assembly Hall with an expanded lineup utilizing guest drummer Gavin Harrison (King Crimson) and Godsticks guitarist Darran Charles. Not only did they record the concert for a live album but they also employed 15 video cameras to capture documentary and backstage footage. Released in September as Where We Stood, the package included a deluxe edition Blu-ray with the full show, documentary footage, and interviews, as well as two different 5.1 surround mixes (one natural, one discrete), all in high-res 24/96 audio. The same edition also included Your Wilderness in stereo and surround, plus the special 8 Years Later album in stereo with a brand-new surround mix as well. (It is the bonus set packaged with Your Wilderness and the follow-up to the 8 Days and 8 Days Later releases that came with Variations of a Dream and 10 Stories Down, respectively.) In addition are five bonus acoustic tracks -- also stereo and surround -- and bonus videos. In November, KScope reissued PT's debut album with its original title, Abducted at Birth. The early post-progressive LP was remastered by PT's keyboardist Steve Kitch with an updated cover and booklet art using fan-submitted photography to explore the theme of Abducted at Birth, to startling effect. A vinyl version of the recording was released in time for Record Store Day in the spring of 2018. In August of that year, the Pineapple Thief issued the single and video "Try as I Might" (the latter directed by George Laycock) as an introduction to the conceptual album Dissolution, which followed just weeks later. Inspired by films like The Truman Show and television shows like Black Mirror, the record's concept related the dark consequences of living in a society in which everything is played out on a public stage via various forms of media. Soord explained, "In a time when we are supposed to be bound closer together than ever, I have never felt so apart from the world. We are living through a revolution and right now I am not sure it's a good one." The group recorded Dissolution across the U.K., sharing ideas via instant messaging, marking the first time the bandmembers were not in the same studio to record. Mixing was handled by Soord and Harrison, and mastering was done by keyboardist Steve Kitch. Guitarist David Torn guested on the song "White Mist." Dissolution recorded Pineapple Thief's highest U.K. album chart entry to date at number 36 and also reached the top spot on the Rock and Metal lists. It reached number 22 on the German album chart, number four in the Netherlands, and number 14 in Finland. The following tour sold out virtually every date the band played. In November of 2019, the group issued Hold Our Fire, a concert album captured during their 16-date European tour. It featured eight live performances of Dissolution tracks, as well a live version of "3000 Days" from the 2010 studio album Someone Here Is Missing, and additional guitars from new axe slinger George Marios. In 2018, Soord began writing songs in his home attic studio. The lyrics revolved around the dying place of objective truth in the speech of international political figures who willfully falsified -- or at least distorted -- it to suit their policy agendas. As the songs began to take on shape, he asked Harrison to help out and the pair began a coordinated musical response to the chaos and conflict of 21st century life. The finished recording was issued by K-Scope as Versions of the Truth during late summer of 2020.
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
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