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The Pineapple Thief - What We Have Sown CD (album) cover

WHAT WE HAVE SOWN

The Pineapple Thief

 

Crossover Prog

3.86 | 246 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Vulgar Unicorn was a delightfully crafty and original British group that released a slew of albums between 1995 and 2004 that subsequently vanished into the ether. Headed by multi-instrumentalists Bruce 'Adrian' Soord and Neil Randall , their craft was quite quirky and oft misunderstood by the general prog public but upon closer analysis, records such as 'Jet Set Radio', 'Sleep With the Fishes' and their debut 'Under the Umbrella' were quite ground breaking and often loads of fun. Then, one fine day in 2002, Soord decided to kick off his Pineapple Thief career with the delectable 'Abducting the Unicorn', a rather accurate and seemingly acerbic title in view of the upcoming split between the two VU leaders. I personally love that album a great deal, owning a different sound but still infused with VU cleverness and wit. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, I never could get into 'Variations on A Dream' and have struggled on every revisit ever since, it just won't stick! So I did something quite stupid in retrospect, I gave up on the 'Fruity Robber' and looked elsewhere, in apparent disinterest. I saw the reviews of all their other albums, all this mention of Radiohead and Muse (2 bands I have only cursory knowledge of, as I have not listened to garbage commercial radio for a quarter of a century now!) but nothing could quite enthuse me enough to investigate further. Big mistake, as my recent purchase of a used copy of 'What Have we Sown' penetrated my car stereo with almost palpable ennui and having zero expectations, I was simply bowled over! While certainly more mainstream-oriented than the often odd-ball VU releases, the material nevertheless possesses a smooth and moody yet propulsive quality which my somnolent sensors picked up immediately and I started to fall under the spell of superb melodies, passionate vocals that do remind me of Thom Yorke (I do know what he sounds like) or whichever Gallagher (Liam or Noel, me not know) but also some tremendous bass (Jon Sykes) and fabulous drum support (Keith Harrison) that caught my attention in a great way. The keyboard applications from Steve Kitch are slick, unobtrusive and very modern with oodles of mellotron samples, which will always make my day brighter. That being said, the dual guitars of Wayne Higgins and the master himself (always an outstanding fret boardist) is quite the revelation and propels the arrangements with verve and gusto.

The finale title track is tectonic slab of an epic, clocking in at over 27 minutes and while quite mellow in most parts, the contrasts are always challenging and 'staying on ones toes'-worthy, stretching the sonic envelope and searching out further playing fields. The entire spectrum of emotions are canvased on a rather large screen that never exasperates or even hints at the slightest tinge of boredom, even though things get very mellow and Floydian at times, which is why I refer to this as a worthy modern-day version of 'Echoes'. Lots of moody electronic beeping, robotic sizzles and a massive drum beat really set the pace, evolving, growing, expanding like some experiment gone haywire, very intoxicating indeed. The nasty e-guitar has a sharp metallic tinge, like some chainsaw gone amok, full of effects and mood tones. Haunting and macabre, the atmosphere is frightening at times, stretching the angst until some sinuous vocal-fueled reprieve shows its sweetness where Bruce's voice is eerily reminiscent of Xavier Phideaux, in a most uncanny way. The recurring chorus is addictive to the nth degree, soothing yet disturbing, loaded with overt regret and unmitigated pain. The soaring guitar solo is staggering in its unassuming beauty, insistent and aching, an iconic blast of genius. Steve Kitch then introduces a piano to his already imposing arsenal of ivories and the spellbinding splurge is equally sensational. This is where the slick arrangement takes on mythical proportions, getting very explosive and aggressive, sequencers ablaze with frenzy, the bass guitar up-front and center, carving out a highway to hell on which all instrumental vehicles will follow, chiming 'rifferama' guitars and mind-numbing pounding from the drum kit. Ka-boom! The sonic slow-building crescendo is a piece of art that cannot leave anyone blase! Resourceful synthesizer detailings are added to continually elevate the piece to loftier heights, progressively becoming even more bombastic and uber-symphonic. The gut-wrenching final delivery may also nod towards bands like Anathema, certainly vocally and that steam-roller guitar assault that the Cavanaugh brothers seem to favor. One of the finest epic prog tracks in the 21st Century.

The mightily inspirational and totally proggy 'West Winds' is the other real highlight here, a meticulously sounding hodgepodge of sound textures that induce fantastic images and a sense of musical accomplishment. Entirely instrumental, the piece attempts and succeeds in stamping prog credentials with a zeal that goes beyond the norm. Choppy guitar spasms, torrential synth cubes, sustained notes that glide through the ether, the level of creative genius is just stunning, Morse code synth blurbs, echoed piano, monstrous bass and primeval drum fills all in perfect harmony, preparing the spotlight for some serious guitar acrobatics, rhythm and lead trading shots with brash boldness. Harrison then launches on a tectonic drum volley that is most heavy and doom-laden, spooky keys in tow. A magnificent and modern piece of music that defies description.

The album starts off with some shorter pieces that offer great melodies, powerful guitar barrages and accomplished singing, all held together by some tough bass and drum propulsion. Each piece has a ton of little details that caught me off guard on a constant basis, a propensity to flirting, cajoling and enticing my brain with bejeweled brilliance. 'All You Need to Know' begins immediately with smooth mellotron waves and a spot-on vocal full of trembling emotion and unabashed sincerity ('I never want to know what you mean me'), that grabs hold of your ears and mind and refuses to let go. The arrangement then explodes into this effortless mood, pushed by a simple bass and drum combination, a stinging guitar solo, first oozy and then woozy but short and sweet. Intelligent prog-pop, exquisitely delivered and totally addictive.

The swooning, almost Hindu-tinged 'Well, I Think That's What You Said?' is another heavenly voiced tune, with angelic chorus on one end and some rock-hard driving rhythmic patterns giving this some backbone, a soft-hard rock ballad of the finest ilk, brooding mellotron not far from the edge. The buzzing guitar attack is slashed by repeated zipper-like swaths of synth and various effects that would make vintage Brian Eno proud.

While 'Take Me With You' has a vocal that will undress any indifference, truth is the song is catchy and hummable, basking in outright proggy clothing as the smoking mellotron blasts away, unhinged. Clanging guitars, moody and spectral keyboards, nasty bass ruffle and muscular drums finish the wardrobe. The 'You're the next one to go, take me with you' line is a soporific entreaty that sears the mind into submission, a wholly seductive package and unreservedly convincing. The mid-section gets into some heavy psychedelics, fluffy clouds of sound before the fury erupts and starts the ravaging entire process, I mean =WOW!

Finally, the highly melancholic 'Deep Blue World' is lush with orchestral accouterments, acoustic guitar shuffling the sweet and yet pained voice of Bruce Soord and a practically pastoral sheen, as if the gallant sun was shining though the curtains, warming the heart and comforting the soul. The vocal is truly divine. Harrison shows his mettle with some complex percussives as the heady mellotron squalls kick in.

My copy has two bonus tracks that are welcome additions to the set list, a mesmerizing and unexpected surprise of the highest order. If U2 would have progressed into a progressive band, this is probably how they would have sounded, Bruce Soord is a very talented singer, guitarist and composer. What a fabulous recording, I think I am going to steal some more exotic fruit and pineapples.

5 Occidental gales

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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