The Pineapple Thief – Versions of the Truth
Progressive Rock | Alternative Rock
To my mind Versions of the Truth commits one of the cardinal sins of music – playing it safe. In art and in life there is no reward without risk, no progress without change. Even if the risks don’t pay off, even if every change an artist makes ends up being for the worse, you still have to give credit where it’s due for being bold. No piece of art will please everyone, and while artists may wish that their creative choices reached and resonated with more people, I doubt there are many artists who look back on their work in hindsight and say “I wish I’d toned it down”. If someone pours their heart and soul into the music they create, it shows, but it’s also equally obvious when someone is merely operating on autopilot.
This new record stands in stark contrast to it’s predecessor. 2018’s Dissolution was a perfect storm. It felt like a passion project that brought together all the band’s finest moments from the past 20 years; their best hooks and biggest riffs alongside more nuanced and progressive elements. My hopes that this late game gem would prove to be a turning point for the band have been somewhat dashed by a follow up that feels to be a very paint by numbers affair. There are few moments here that jump out and grab my attention. The arrangements are more subdued and simplified, with tracks like ‘Driving Like Maniacs’ and ‘The Game’ coming off as barren and lifeless. The otherwise promising hook of ‘Leave Me Be’ is squandered by apathetic delivery, and even the album’s biggest riffs on ‘Break It All’ lack the necessary passion and aggression to pack any proper punch.
Obviously an album doesn’t need to be big and in-your-face to be a rewarding listen, but even when viewed as the band taking a more mellow and stripped back approach this record just doesn’t hold water. Frontman and primary songwriter Bruce Soord went down the acoustic route for his 2019 solo record All This Will Be Yours, and that record managed to do far more with less at his disposal. I’ve heard a softer side to his work that builds a subtle and moving atmosphere, that is every bit as intricate and engaging as the heavier material, and this record just isn’t it.
That’s not to say Versions of the Truth hasn’t got a couple of hidden gems worth digging deeper for. ‘Out of Line’ delights with some stunningly emotive guitar work and releases the shackles from drum virtuoso Gavin Harrison to give him chance to deliver the album’s most complex, expressive and measured percussion by far. The album’s longest offering ‘Our Mire’ also has a lot to offer. While the attention grabbing bass lines are the real star of the show here, the song also delivers a stunning synth driven coda, a wild squalling guitar solo, and a sublimely sinister lead riff that sounds like ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’s evil twin.
Sadly such diverse and compelling tracks are the exception rather than the norm this time around. For the most part The Pineapple Thief feel like they are lacking the necessary drive and purpose to make this new album hit home. There are a lot worse releases out there this year, but I can’t be passionate about a record if it feels like the band weren’t passionate about making it.