01. Put It Right 02. Rubicon 03. It Leads To This 04. The Frost 05. All That's Left 06. Now It's Yours 07. Every Trace Of Us 08. To Forget
Bruce Soord started THE PINEAPPLE THIEF a remarkable quarter-of-a-century ago. He almost certainly didn't expect the project to still be a going concern in 2024, and yet here we are, as Yeovil's finest continue reaping the rewards of their most recent transformation.
There have been a few incarnations of THE PINEAPPLE THIEF over the last 25 years, but the arrival of drumming legend Gavin Harrison in 2017 was a crucial development. In the years since, Soord and his comrades have been on miraculous form: very much the all-encompassing, progressively inclined rock band, and the most versatile vehicle imaginable for their leader's increasingly vital songwriting. "It Leads To This" follows in the footsteps of "Your Wilderness" (2016),  "Dissolution" (2018),  "Versions Of The Truth" (2020) and "Give It Back" (2022),  wherein Soord, Harrison, bassist Jon Sykes, and keyboardist Steve Kitch redefined their artful, prog-tinged alt-rock as something bigger, more expansive and more explosive than before.
As ever, the harsh and bewildering realities of life hang heavily over each of these eight, darkly dexterous songs. Soord's outlook has often appeared to amount to a piercing stare down the wrong end of a telescope, but always with poignant and poetic results. This writer still struggles to hold the tears back when listening to 2014's potently relatable "Magnolia", for instance. On "It Leads To This", however, THE PINEAPPLE THIEF are lost in a reverie of disenchantment at the world around them, with thoughts of parenthood, paranoia and profound disappointment informing Soord 's predictably desolate but gorgeous melodies. Frequently steering away into instrumental breaks that casually bring the essences of old- and new-school prog together, and with Harrison being remorselessly extraordinary throughout, the Brits' 15th studio album upholds their recent high standards, but with an almost mischievous, virtuoso flourish.
Beginning with just Soord 's disembodied voice and plaintive piano, "Put It Right" is a slow-burning plea for sanity, built upon a jittery, shuffling beat, but dense with dynamic dropouts. In addition to having been masterfully produced, THE PINEAPPLE THIEF 's subtly distinctive take on modern prog rock has steadily become more focused and immersive. Such are the powers of an unnaturally gifted four-piece band: the loping denouement of "Put It Right" expresses so much, but with a simple approach that seems rather noble. Driven by Harrison's fluid, unstoppable grooves, "Rubicon" showcases the quartet's blending of intimacy and bombast, as they take a brief mid-song detour into sinewy, math rock jam territory, only to be brought back down to Earth by the song's crestfallen and bittersweet crescendo. The title track is an immaculate ensemble showcase that wrings melodrama and heartbreak from a maze of lithe, stealthy and muscular art rock. Recent single "The Frost" is a ballsy and defiant blur of big riffs and mood swings, with a protective shroud of reverb and bubbling electronics.
Unfussy and concise at a perfectly paced 40 minutes, "It Leads To This" does a great job of evoking the frustrations and existential turbulence that plague humankind in the 21st century, but without opting to pompously spell things out. "All That's Left" is proudly overwrought and desolate, with more scabby-knuckled riffing as a rousing consolation; "Now It's Yours" shimmers dreamily along on Harrison's effortlessly fluid syncopations; plagued by regret and aching with embarrassment at the pitiful mess older generations have left to the young, the song's title is offered more as an apology than an act of generosity. But as it progresses, glimmers of hope emerge, along with sublime, twangy guitar and a brutish, jarring payoff. Similarly unpredictable, "Every Trace Of Us" may be the finest song here, with its skewed, jazzy riffs, unnerving air of vengeful disdain and manic, ultra-prog instrumental section; closer "To Forget" is fragile, elegant and very beautiful indeed, not to mention another glowing advertisement for the efficacy of THE PINEAPPLE THIEF's current lineup. As enchanting and atmospheric as classic FLOYD, but firmly located in the here and now, it is both gorgeous and enormously sad. Most importantly, it echoes the rest of "It Leads To This" by having a subtle but profound emotional impact, long after its final, dissolving chords.
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