THE PINEAPPLE THIEF – Someone Here Is Missing (2010)

Over the course of the past several years (and albums), The Pineapple Thief have donned many different musical hats. Unable to wait for the next Radiohead album (which would eventually become In Rainbows), The Pineapple Thief released Little Man in 2006, and effectively gave us a Radiohead album in what turned out to be a year ahead of schedule. In 2007, the band decided to give their prog influences a bear hug, and released What We Have Sown, an album that’s as close as a new King Crimson-in-their-glory-days 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 seamless collection of songs. All of these albums were released to little or no fanfare, and all of them remain (more or less) in obscurity. Which is a shame. And, after listening to the band’s newest album, Someone Here Is Missing, it’s even more of a shame for me to write that if this album remains in obscurity, there won’t be any harm done.

I’ve always had The Pineapple Thief’s back; I was hooked from the first time I heard 137. I remember obsessing over Remember Us, the final track from Variations On A Dream, for the better part of a year. I remember pre-ordering 12 Stories Down, of which only 1,000 copies were initially printed, the instant I could, so I could have the exclusive bonus disc, 8 Days Later. And with each release, the band have never failed to disappoint – until now. Someone Here Is Missing, the band’s eighth studio album, takes a drastic departure from the established complexity of the band’s sound. The Pineapple Thief’s music is densely layered and atypically structured; it’s not always easy to tell where their songs are going. But that’s not the case here. If pressed, I’d say Someone Here Is Missing kind of sounds like a mixture of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist, crossed with the least-inspiring The Mars Volta moments.

The problem with most of the songs that are present here is that they don’t flow forth from a well of ideas; typically, The Pineapple Thief songs would go from one section to another and another, being careful never to repeat one section for too long without augmenting it somehow. That’s not the case here. The songs take one idea apiece, and ride them out to their respective conclusions. What’s worse is that these ideas aren’t very interesting, a fact illuminated more and more as more time passes in each song. The blippy, no frills drumbeat of Wake Up Dead is the backbone of the song, which wouldn’t be a problem if more elements came in in a timely fashion. But they don’t – by the time the guitar comes crashing in three-quarters of the way through, we’ve checked out or hit “skip”.

And speaking of the guitar, my God, is it awful sounding. The same listless, neo alt-metal crunch permeates every single song, swirling about like a teen angst fueled hurricane. And it does so without any meaningful variation in any of the songs, save for some temporary acoustic noodling. Now, acoustic guitar has always played a role in the band’s music, but here, it doesn’t feel natural at all; the acoustic sections come off sounding timid, like they were placed there to counterbalance the atrocious metal tones, not because the song required them. The only song that rises above the mediocre fray here is the album closer, So We Row; but it comes too late to redeem an album that offered none of what we’ve come to expect from this band during the course of its run.

Someone Here Is Missing is an album that literally pained me to review. Seriously. My stomach twisted into knots, hearing a band like this fall from grace so hard. I read somewhere once that the worst thing that could be written about any musical endeavor was that it sounds as if it could have been written by anybody. Someone Here Is Missing made me feel like that at times, but throughout it all, I could still feel a faint glimmer of The Pineapple Thief emanating from somewhere in the music. In a way, I think that’s worse.

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