The Pineapple Thief, 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, have announced the multi format release of Nothing But The Truth on Kscope on 22 October. Following the release of their latest studio album Versions Of The Truth in September 2020, the band were preparing to start the album’s live campaign when, like so many other artists, their plans were put on hold by the continuing global pandemic.
Eager to still perform and connect with their fans across the globe, in April 2021, The Pineapple Thief filmed an extravagant on demand live event entitled Nothing But The Truth directed by band videographer George Laycock (Blacktide Phonic/Visual). Bruce Soord said recently: “The Pineapple Thief is equally about the studio and the stage, so it was hugely disappointing that we were unable to tour, especially as we were excited to be able to perform the new album “Versions Of The Truth” live for everyone. Being able to do this film, especially under the circumstances, was invaluable. It was such an alien time and an alien thing to do. Yes, we had all performed in front of cameras before, but this was different. We were playing a brand-new set, one time only, to stream to every corner of the globe, standing in a circle on our little islands with cameras everywhere. The pressure was on. We simply had to nail it!
The live webcast event in April 2021 gave fans the opportunity to see the band power through a set of classics and newer material on a soundstage, albeit a very well dressed one. And an interesting experience it was too – part “reality” music video, mostly an opportunity to see a fine band in ‘earnest’ performance mode. And maybe being earnest is part of their problem – The Pineapple Thief are often tagged as being Prog, but Bruce Soord’s songwriting is more part of that school of English melancholy. So whilst the arrangement and instrumentation have a foot in ‘sort-of prog’ territory, the nature of the musicians means there’s next to no showboating in the whole “playing live” thing – very different to when I did see them live not so long ago.
Several of The Pineapple Thief’s various albums have had very varied critical reviews, the band being a bit like the fabled “Marmite”, and each album has generated a different set of responses from fans. In my own case, I never really got excited by the generally praised “big one”, the 2014 offering Magnolia; I loved 2016’s Your Wilderness and even more so 2018’s Dissolution; but was then left curiously unmoved and disappointed by their most recent (2021) offering Versions of The Truth. I am mindful however that Live, TPT can be a very different animal to the studio version, and I absolutely loved their 2019 shows. So I was intrigued as to how this latest offering might turn out – as a sort of classic “live double album”.
The 17 tracks comprising Nothing But The Truth are naturally heavily centred around Versions (7 tracks), the remainder being 4 from Dissolution; 2 from Your Wilderness; 3 from 2012’s All The Wars and a re-working of 2005’s Wretched Soul from the 10 Stories Down album.
The album opens with ‘Versions of the Truth’ from the album of the same name and, while I love and appreciate Gavin’s total mastery of the percussive art, I do find several of the most recent songs a bit thin in terms of composition and musical richness, they rely too heavily on his syncopative prowess. The lyrics may well be very meaningful but live albums are more about the overall sound, and depth of music – the event, the ambience, the smell of the crowd etc – and this seems a strangely muted opener in that sense, even acknowledging this isn’t a “real” live album.
Contrast that with the following In Exile (from 2016’s Your Wilderness), where there’s instantly a greater depth and – sod it – interest in the arrangement? This version has that authentic “wound-up” live feel, I love it!
Warm Seas (from 2012’s All the Wars) is new to me, but also captivates me from the off, pulsating, mesmeric drumming underpinning a enveloping, rocky, number. Our Mire is one of the stronger tracks off Versions, and it’s no coincidence that’s because there’s some lovely guitar work on here, enabling different sections of the song to have a different vibe and timbre. Seven minutes of pleasure ( to paraphrase Grace Slick!).
And again, Build A World off All The Wars mixes emotions and moods nicely within the composition.
Conversely, the next tracks Demons and Driving Like Maniacs sum up my feelings about the Versions album – essentially driven by percussion, Bruce ‘crooning’ in an almost Keane way (no offence intended to either party), a bassline and a little bit of keys….
The role of Bruce’s guitar is for me way too muted, sparse, laid back to the point of being non-existent. I am an unashamed guitar fan, and all my favourite TPT tracks are in that slightly fuller vein. They can still be sparse arrangements, but there’s a meatiness that somehow seems missing from several of the Versions tracks? Some feel like they’ve been written on Auto-pilot I’m afraid….that’s my take on things anyway.
On the other hand, Someone Pull Me Out of Here (All The Wars) is a fine example of Bruce’s sparse style of songwriting working really well. There’s light and shade in here, strength and delicacy intertwined. Uncovering Your Tracks from Dissolution achieves the same juggling act, it’s a fine track! Next is Break It All, followed by White Mist from Dissolution, and here’s another part of the enigma – although I like these tracks on their own merits, I found myself mentally wandering off – because stylistically they’re so much of a muchness compared with the previous two tracks. Incidentally I have the same issue with the Foo Fighters – individual tracks are excellent but I just cant stomach a whole album of theirs in one go, they simply merge into an amorphous whole. It’s confusing, because I can remember being blown away by White Mist when played live on the 2019 tour – then, it was a ten minute incendiary device of a track, a real tour-deforce. Here, relatively speaking it’s something of a damp squib – and I do find that worrying!
I’m afraid several of the remaining songs fall into a similar hole – ultimately I got bored of the same vocals / syncopation routine. Far Below and Threatening War stand out from the murk, both from Dissolution, they simply feel more more energised and involved, real, hard-hitting, meaty. The same applies to the album’s closer The Final Thing On My Mind from Your Wilderness.
This band are musically very competent and Bruce has demonstrated in the past that he is a top-grade songwriter. But…. Something Now Is Missing?….(sic)
Nothing But The Truth will be released in various formats – Deluxe 4 DVD hardback book containing lots and lots of extras (including 4 bonus songs not seen in the streamed event) and two audio CDs; a Blu Ray version of the same; double CD; gatefold double LP; and digitally. It comes out on 22 October and pre-orders are available now HERE (https://TPT.lnk.to/NothingButTheTruth )