THE PINEAPPLE THIEF – Tightly Unwound (2008)

The Pineapple Thief - Tightly Unwound With each new release, The Pineapple Thief have moved closer and closer to recapturing the pop/prog perfection that they displayed on 137 and Variations on a Dream. It’s not that the band have ever taken a step backwards in the quality department – 2006’s Little Man was a dense flurry of abstract pop, veiled with the same electronic manipulation that made Radiohead a household name. And 2007’s What We Have Sown called the bluff that 25+ minute prog songs were a dead medium, and that Dream Theater and the InsideOut B-List had killed them.

Tightly Unwound doesn’t have any 25+ minute prog songs like the title track of What We Have Sown, although it does have Too Much To Lose, the 16 minute track which close out the album, and which is, in its own way, every bit as breathtaking – it opens like a strung-out ballad, culled from a forlorn alleyway. Suddenly, the ballad pulls itself up, as if realizing it’s got business to attend to, and heads off to some dark place, obscured by tight drum work and reverb-soaked samples. It’s a harrowing experience, and by the time it closes (with singer Bruce Soord singing “No, I don’t want to hurt you” against a thunderous backdrop), you’re left feeling like you’ve been watching a gritty film noir serial, cut from nightmares and pieced together in a storm.

It’d be hard to gauge where Tightly Unwound ends up based upon how it starts; My Debt To You is a soft, mostly-acoustic song where the focus is on Soord’s voice, and little else. From a purely musical standpoint, Soord’s voice is intriguing; it’s like a mix of Thom Yorke and Steven Wilson, and when he harmonizes himself (as he does in the chorus: “here’s my debt to you”), it’s extraordinarily catchy, regardless of the weight of the song (he harmonizes himself again in Shoot First, a much more upbeat song, and the result is the same).

Overall, there’s a little more of a rock influence on much of Tightly Unwound: there’s nothing really “prog” about some songs, like Sinners, which at times displays an arena-rock level of energy. Then there’s songs like My Bleeding Hand, which sounds like what Muse could’ve been capable of on Black Holes and Revelations if they would’ve been more focused. But as great as both these songs are, some of the best material on Tightly Unwound comes as a complete surprise.

Like The Sorry State, a song that begins similarly to some of the others on the album but quickly differentiates itself through its use of flamenco guitar in the verses. It’s carried off later by a raw, yet controlled guitar solo, a solo that collides into another flamenco verse; at this point, everything in the song is blossoming, and it’s hard not to be captivated by it. And So Say All of you is another such song; it’s sandwiched between the two longest songs on the album, but it’s just as emotionally effective at a third of the runtime. It’s mostly low-key, almost a ballad, and then it picks up at the end, but only to come back down again. It’s not as beautiful as The Answers from 10 Stories Down, but then again, it doesn’t need to be. There’s an indescribable sadness that lingers in it, and to hear such a succinct display of emotion between such a mountain of it is only further proof of the band’s prowess.

If Too Much To Lose is the most progressive song on the album, it seems fitting that Different World, the second longest song (at 11 minutes), is its rival. While both songs share similar runtimes, the emotions they evoke could not be more different; Too Much To Lose is an incredibly dark and foreboding song, while Different World is lighter and more contemplative. What’s remarkable about it is how easily it moves from one section to the next. The string section in the middle gradually turns into a soft pop revelation, which fades away while only the piano lingers, before bringing the song back around again to a reprise of an earlier section. Before you know it, the song has gradually faded to nothing, and the solemn opening of And So Say All of You has begun.

The Pineapple Thief are one of the greatest treasures in the current underground music scene. They’re the kind of band that could potentially appeal to all kinds of music fans. Prog fans will like them for their detailed epics, while pop fans will rejoice at their sense of melody and harmony. People with more abstract tastes will admire their use of texture and structure, while still others will simply love the album for what is: a boundlessly enjoyable experience.

HD RATING: 10/10

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One Response to “THE PINEAPPLE THIEF – Tightly Unwound (2008)”

  1. […] record as we’re likely to ever hear. And in 2008, the band released Tightly Unwound, an album that conjures all the best aspects of Porcupine Tree, Muse and dredg, together into one […]

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