The Pineapple Thief – Give It Back (Album Review)

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After releasing 2020’s “Versions of the Truth,” England’s The Pineapple Thief surprised many fans with the announcement of a new album in advance of their US tour. Rather than an album of new material, or leftover tracks from their recent album release, “Give It Back” was announced as containing modern remakes of older songs in the back catalog. However, rather than simply re-record the tracks with Gavin Harrison taking over drums, the band decided to “rewire” the tracks, allowing them to be redone in a way that while honoring the past, they are a new entity. To paraphrase a Fripp-ism that Gavin has repeated numerous times, they recorded this album as if the songs were new.

The album contains (by my count) 5 tracks from 2012’s “All the Wars,” 3 from 2006’s  “Little Man,” 2 from 2005’s “10 Stories Down,” and 1 each from 2008’s “Tightly Unwound” and 2001’s “One Three Seven.” So, I could do this review one of two ways. I could review it strictly as a standalone album, where the “too long, didn’t read” version would be “It’s a really good album overall.” However, I feel the far more fun and interesting way of reviewing this release is by listening to the original song and the new “rewired” version back-to-back, and see if this release was really necessary from the band.

The first track off the album is “Wretched Soul”. There are two things you notice fairly quickly off the bat, and which tend to be running trends on the album: First off, Gavin has an incredible way of taking what is normally a straightforward drum part, and twisting it into something simple, and yet very complex that adds an immeasurable boost to every track. Second, is how much Bruce has grown as a vocalist. Not to say that he was ever a bad one on earlier albums mind you, but he has certainly grown in confidence, and his ability to project emotion to his lyrics, as well as building lovely vocal harmonies.

“Dead in Water” is a far more haunting piece, with a much richer, layered nuance than the original version. Jon Sykes’ bass is far more pronounced on this version as well. The title track comes along and is (to my ears at least), one of the few tracks on the album that I felt wasn’t as wholly improved on compared to the original. There certainly are aspects that are improved, but I certainly missed some elements of the original.

“Build a World” follows, and is one of my favorites in terms of what they rewired. The original song was a relatively straightforward rock song. The new version adds a wonderful marimba line to the orchestral opening, with Bruce taking a much softer take on the vocals, with the band slowly building the song verse by verse. “Start Your Descent”, a much laxer song compared to what we’ve had so far, is an interesting song. It really took me a few listens of each version to get a good handle on the differences. On the first few listens, the song feels as if it was the least modified song on the album. Nevertheless, on further review, while the overall song structure is probably changed the least, the nuances of the bass and keyboards give the track a much larger sense of richness and fullness. Jon and keyboardist Steve Kitch really shine on this track.

While the previous songs seem to have one specific area that I found greatly improved, “Shoot First” is one song that, start to finish, is improved in almost every way. Bruce’s vocals are far better, the sound design on the synth’s is far and away a better fit to the song along with greatly improved bass and drum parts. “Boxing Day” I’d argue is the most overhauled song on the album, in terms of style. The original being a very soft emotional song, and the newer version still being very tender, but given a bit more urgency and drive thanks to Gavin’s drums. With most of the tracks on this album, I’d tend to lean towards preferring the rewired versions more than the originals, but I think both versions of this song stand equally to each other, and are quite different animals.

“Warm Seas” and “Someone Pull Me Out” are both in the same vein as many of these other previous tracks: Great songs kicked up a notch. The heartbreaking “Little Man”, comes through very warmly again, with an arrangement that, again, shows how much the band has grown over time. It’s the little things that really elevates this song, with Gavin’s drums (to me at least) certainly being the largest improvement to this song, although Kitch’s piano and organ also plays a much better role here than in the original.

While this may come off as a bit of a backhanded compliment, what this album really solidifies is that The Pineapple Thief has an amazingly rich back catalog of albums prior to “Your Wilderness”. Here’s what I mean: Many fans, like myself, discovered the band with that album and 2018’s “Dissolution”, and with the titanic quality of them (and “Versions of the Truth”), it’s easy to get lost in them, and forget about the rest of the back catalog that perhaps didn’t have as much publicity (or the presence of Gavin Harrison). This album is the perfect way for newer fans to dip their toes into these earlier albums. If I can complain about one thing though, it’s that I can’t help but wish that they would rewire a track or two from 2014’s “Magnolia.” But again, that’s just personal preference talking here.

Let’s go back to my comment/question earlier of “if this release was really necessary from the band”. Anytime a band reaches into their back catalog to resurrect, or “remix” a song, it really risks turning into either a horrible mess, or at best, a ho-hum novelty that very quickly relegates itself to the dustbin of their back catalog. Did The Pineapple Thief need to release this record? No. But I’m certainly glad they did. For an overwhelming majority of the tracks, the band has managed to avoid the trap I mentioned earlier, and remade these songs as the expert mature artists they are. And to be clear once more, this album is not a case of “Add Gavin and re-release”. Yes, Gavin’s drums are a revelation to the songs. But beyond him, this is an album showcasing roughly 15 years of growth from every member of the rest of the band. The writing/arrangements and vocals are better. The keys and sound design are better and more complex/layered. The bass is tighter, and the lines are far more skilled and nuanced. The production/mixing/mastering is leaps and bounds better. This is a band looking back at its past, but from much higher up a mountain that they’re still climbing.

Released By:  Kscope
Release Date:  May 13th, 2022
Genre:  Progressive Rock

Musicians:

  • Bruce Soord / Vocals, guitars keyboardist
  • Steve Kitch / Keyboards
  • Jon Sykes / Bassist
  • Gavin Harrison / Drums

“Give it Back” track-listing

  1. Wretched Soul (Rewired)
  2. Dead In the Water (Rewired)
  3. Shoot First (Rewired)
  4. Build A World (Rewired)
  5. Start Your Descent (Rewired)
  6. Give It Back (Rewired)
  7. Boxing Day (Rewired)
  8. Someone Pull Me Out (Rewired)
  9. Last Man Standing (Rewired)
  10. Little Man (Rewired)
  11. 137 (Rewired)
  12. Warm Seas (Rewired)

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9.0 Excellent

The odd case of a novelty album idea becoming far more elevated than it has any right to be, the Pineapple Thief blends old tracks with a new sense of skill and urgency. It’s both a loving tribute to their past, with an eye for where they are now, and where they’re going

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 10
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