July 16, 2022

The Pineapple Thief are one of the leading lights of Europe’s experimental rock domain, led by post-progressive mastermind Bruce Soord and reinforced by Gavin Harrison (King Crimson) on drums. Released on Kscope on 13th May, Give It Back continues that experiment, being an album of newly recorded re-worked classic tracks from their impressive catalogue now featuring Gavin Harrison.

‘Give It Back’ is a new album featuring 12 new versions of earlier works including songs taken from the albums ‘Little Man’, ‘All The Wars’, ‘Tightly Unwound’. The band have completely re-recorded all of the tracks to complement brand new Gavin Harrison drum parts and new song arrangements. The result of this process is a set of reworked songs which showcase where The Pineapple Thief are now at….

Bruce Soord explains the idea behind the album “Gavin went through the entire TPT back catalogue and picked out some songs he felt we could revisit. As soon as I heard what Gavin was doing, it inspired me to completely rework the songs too. Gavin would suggest adding new parts, chopping things around, bringing in extra verses and I was completely open to all of it. I also ‘closed the story’ lyrically on a lot of the songs which I felt were left too open ended. It was a lot of fun to do, even if it felt a little strange at times going back in time.” 

Gavin Harrison comments “When I first started working with The Pineapple Thief I had only played on the album “Your Wilderness”, so when the time came to play live, I obviously had to approach quite a few songs I didn’t know and hadn’t played before. Having spent some years in King Crimson (where this challenge was often presented to me), Robert Fripp suggested that you should approach every song as if it were new regardless of when it was written. So with the blessing of The Pineapple Thief, I developed my own take on some of the earlier material. As the tours went by, I got curious about their huge back catalogue and found myself listening through and applying the ‘old song/new song’ process and imagining how I could (sometimes radically) rework them – initially just for the purposes of finding other songs to play live. However, Bruce encouraged me to go as far out as I wanted (including writing whole new sections) – after all, the original already existed – so why not breathe new life into these earlier songs? This isn’t a compilation album or any kind of selected ‘best of’ record – but rather the tunes that gave me inspiration to rearrange, rework, rewire.” 

The title track from the album is the first single, out now. Bruce  explains “One of the first songs that Gavin picked out from the back catalogue was Give it Back. We completely re-recorded and re-worked the entire piece. It feels like a completely new song and it’s already part of our live set.”  

The Give It Back album artwork has been created by Carl Glover, it is available a two-disc CD & Blu-ray (Audio – Hi-res Stereo/DTS-HD MA 5.1/Dolby Atmos), CD, black vinyl LP and digitally.

Photo: Diana Seifert

And so to the music – and this is where I begin to have a problem, and I have to say at the outset I don’t believe that is down to Gavin. I’ve loved The Pineapple Thief over several years now, and with relatively recent albums like Magnolia, Your Wilderness and Dissolution, they were making fascinating music, especially live – see my review of them in Sheffield in 2019 on the Dissolution tour. But since then, and there’s no easy way of saying this, to me they’ve got very predictable and samey, with a relatively narrow, monochromatic, vocal range from Bruce, pretty sparse and uninspiring arrangements and generally thin and rather plodding songs – despite the percussive creativity of Gavin. He was pretty much the sole redeeming feature of 2021’s dull Versions Of The Truth.

This record seems intent on ploughing the same furrow, with the first three tracks Wretched Soul, Dead In The water and Give It Back all sounding straight out of the same stable as VOTT, and quite frankly I’m pretty bored by the time Build A World comes along. This is better, a change in tempo and instruments, shock horror! And that’s the thing, so many songs on this album sound as though there’s not much else apart from percussion, vocals and some pretty basic guitar work?

Start Your Descent is back to Plan A before 137 injects something different – vocals in a slightly different key?!

But then we’re back into another six tracks of the same thin arrangements, slow, maudlin, vocals, a bit of variety in the percussion but very little else…..I struggle to believe this is the same rich, creative, emotional band that were so powerful last time I saw them?

Sorry folks, I don’t get any pleasure from saying this, but I’m so disappointed with this album, and for all of Bruce Soord’s much lauded post-prog experimentation (and deservedly so!), there’s precious little of it in evidence here. It feels like a big attack of writers block, and I’m desperately hoping there’s a cure and Bruce gets back on track soon.