The Pineapple Thief, Someone Here is Missing
I am so glad Pandora exists. Not the world of James Cameron’s Avatar, but the online radio station. Thanks to it, I discovered Porcupine Tree, and subsequently found The Pineapple Thief. Over the past year, The Pineapple Thief have become one of my favorite bands. Up to now, however, everything I’ve heard has been from their back catalog. This is the first new album I had to wait for. I pre-ordered it directly from the band’s label (Kscope) back in March, the first day it went on sale, and had to wait for two months — and, of course, I had to wonder if it would live up to expectations.
I needn’t have worried. Bottom line: I love this album. It has fulfilled every expectation I had for it. Bruce Soord, the vocalist/guitarist/songwriter, has managed to create a set of songs that build on the band’s previous work while also continuing to evolve. In other words, it manages to be both different and familiar, pleasing to longtime fans and accessible to new ones.
If you’re already a fan, that’s probably all you need to know. If you’ve never heard of them, how do I describe them? If you like Radiohead or Smashing Pumpkins, you’ll probably like The Pineapple Thief. They’re not clones of either of those bands, but there are similarities, particularly in the vocals. Earlier albums found Soord doing his best Billy Corrigan imitation (while also managing to sound better than Billy) but he now sounds more like Thom Yorke. His voice may not be as pure, but his fragile-seeming tenor often surprises me with its strength. Thematically, Soord’s songs are full of melancholy, but his voice manages to simultaneously convey both sadness and an almost-childlike hope that maybe, just maybe, things might get better than they are now.
Musically, this is one of the most visceral albums I have in my collection. In keeping with the lyrical themes, it rages, pleads, batters, and soothes, all in 55 minutes that go by all too quickly. Soord likes to mix a lot of semi-industrial noise and electronic sounds in with the “real” instruments, but he manages to keep it all in check and not let it take over. The opening track, “Nothing at Best,” is a study in contrasts. It starts off with what sounds like the beginning of a techno song before the guitars come crashing in with one of the coolest riffs I’ve heard in a long time — and then tells the story of a doomed relationship, from the perspective of the person who’s ruining it. From the chorus:
It’s never felt so right.
But I am telling you to run for your life.
Just stay with me tonight?
And I will bury you.
Along with our lives.
The first and third lines are sung in such a way that they could be from a different song, one that is more typical of love songs in general. They are the words presented to the other person, the outward expression. The other lines, however, are darker and seem to be more internal, a warning the singer wishes he could give, but can’t quite bring himself to admit out loud. He knows he’s no good for her. Or perhaps he just thinks he is. Despite this depressing start, however, the album closes with “So We Row,” a promise to a loved one (perhaps the same one he was telling to run earlier?) that he’ll do everything he can to find a better place for them, even it means rowing forever.
It climaxes with a semi-a cappella vocal section where Soord lays down multiple vocal tracks repeating the simple phrase, “So we row.” It’s a beautiful ending that expresses all the hope, fear, exasperation, and determination that are a part of any lasting relationship. As of this writing (June), this is my favorite album of 2010. I highly recommend it.
A quick note for the completists out there (like me): The version stocked by Amazon and iTunes is the standard 9-song edition. The special edition has two bonus tracks, and is available directly from Kscope (which has an amazing track record with the quality of its releases during the two years of its existence). A non-album track called “Open Water” is available as part of the digital single for “Nothing at Best.” All three of these extra tracks are worth having; none of them are filler. They were recorded during the same sessions but simply ended up not fitting the overall theme. I’m glad I have them.