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REVIEW: The Pineapple Thief - Versions of the Truth


England's The Pineapple Thief have a back catalogue of nouveau prog rock that has attracted considerable critical claim over a 20 year career, though not so much in the way of commercial recognition. This is the band's thirteenth album following 2018's lauded Dissolution.

Kicking off with the title track, an understated and plaintive melody that propels slickly with engaging changes in pace and weft, a song that takes many turns yet remains cohesive with a sustained sense of drama. Similarly stately is Break It All, restrained and tense rock, redolent of a more accessible Tool.

Despite overtly emotionally turbulent lyrics, Demons is wonderfully catchy and embellished by an accompaniment of Indian style strings and is one of the band's modern stand-out tracks. The deceivingly mellow Driving Like Maniacs, is a low-fi, late-night compact self-reflection but it will be a challenge not to nod along with your eyes closed to the controlled charged pulse of Leave Me Be with its hypnotically disturbing lyrics and emotional clout.

The latter half of the album offers the quieter side and a comparative lull with the dreamy Too Many Voices and the hushed Out of Line - resigned and fragile meditations structured with poise and thoughtful shading. Our Mire has an off-putting title with its dreary allusions of relationship woe but is actually upbeat, catchy light rock.

The album closes in an arresting and unsettling finale with the The Game which is polished and ominous akin to modern-era Anathema. The frail, wistful voice of Bruce Soord (his desperate refrain of "no, it's not a game anymore" is a deception for a violent and ominous culmination of foreboding electronica, organ and chords reaching a Mogwai-esque crescendo.

The neat trick of this album is mastering cleverly structured songs, with flourishes, time changes, bridges, and subtlety that are compact and tightly disciplined. Delicate yet intense, a broad palette of mood and hues are cogently arranged without the excessive indulgences and guitar noodling that has often plagued prog rock and its subgenre associates.

Versions of the Truth is said to be inspired by the fake news / post-truth era but this is not a socio-political protest album and eschews rock volume and bombast in favour of subdued reflection. The neurotic dislocation of the modern media age is expressed through oblique lyrical themes of emotional turmoil, personal confusion and distressed relationships

(also signified by the album cover art of a fuzzy black and white maze). Lyrical content is often sparse, relying on repetition with slight yet profound changes. A sad, bleak undertow tugs beneath an understated and often upbeat and accessible style.

Already, this dialled down style seems to have split some opinion among the band's aficionados and those seeking a fix of riffing will find succour elsewhere. The style does, however, compliment the concept in this case and the album oozes classy strong structures that think rather than scream, intelligent memorable melodies, and a cerebral edge.

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