Album Review: The Pineapple Thief – Give it Back – Rewired

4/5

English musician Bruce Soord is already considered a legendary figure in progressive rock lore, having been writing songs for his project The Pineapple Thief since 1999. Over the last few decades, Soord and the band’s varying cast of members have churned out some of the group’s most highly rated albums, including 2010’s Someone Here is Missing, 2008’s Tightly Unwound, and 2014’s Magnolia among many others.

And then, around 2015, drummer Gavin Harrison of King Crimson and Porcupine Tree fame joined the band. Initially, Harrison only offered his world-renowned drumming abilities to the 2016 album Your Wilderness. But he soon began assisting Soord with songwriting and mixing duties, becoming an official member of the band on 2018’s Dissolution. Both Dissolution and its follow-up, 2020’s Versions of the Truth, were wildly successful and brought about a resurgence of the band’s popularity.

The Pineapple Thief was still touring on their latest studio album, Versions of the Truth, and had only just released their 2021 live album Nothing but the Truth, when they shocked the music world by announcing the 2022 release of their 14th full-length album, Give it Back – Rewired. But, as it turns out, this was not destined to be your average run-of-the-mill record.

Named for a song off 2012’s All the Wars, Give it Back – Rewired is a thoughtful look-back at the band’s 23-year career through the lens of its newest member: Gavin Harrison himself. It began as a practicality—Harrison had to familiarize himself with the band’s hefty back catalog so he could play the drum parts on tour—but soon evolved into a greater reimagining.

“As the tours went by, I got curious about their huge back catalog and found myself listening through and applying the ‘old song/new song’ process and imagining how I could (sometimes radically) rework [the songs],” Harrison explains, adding, “this isn’t a compilation album or any kind of selected ‘best of’ record – but rather the tunes that gave me inspiration to rearrange, rework, rewire.”

Soord, no stranger to revisiting and reworking his own creations having completely re-recorded and remixed the album that would become 10 Stories Down in 2005, was more than tolerant of the idea. In fact, he became inspired to reimagine his own vocal and guitar parts in addition to Harrison revamping the drums.

“Gavin would suggest adding new parts, chopping things around, bringing in extra verses and I was completely open to all of it,” Soord elaborates. “I also ‘closed the story’ lyrically on a lot of the songs which I felt were left too open-ended.” Together, Soord and Harrison also rearranged and mixed the album afresh. The culmination? Twelve completely new “rewired” versions of already beloved Pineapple Thief songs spanning the band’s storied career.

As you might expect given Harrison’s percussive prowess, the drum parts are more intricate and focused on the reimagined versions. The rewired “Wretched Soul” is a masterpiece of turbulent drumming, which along with the added electronic elements make for a more processed, mature sound when compared to the raw demo-like original off of 2005’s 10 Stories Down. The rimshots following the classic glitchy intro of “Dead in the Water” add a lot to the song, even if the harmonizing vocals of the 2006 original somehow remain more haunting and poignant.

Check out the lyric video for “Dead in the Water:”

Elsewhere, Soord has added to the lyrical canvas of his older works. “Build a World” features a new opening verse so relevant it appears to break the fourth wall, with Soord singing, “When it’s over, you’ll see what a world was meant to be; all the things that we have done, how could they be undone?” As if to drive this point home, the rewired version trades the subtle strings for more intense orchestration, even adding a marimba to the mix. The result is a much more powerful song—an old favorite has been somehow made even better.

Other alterations change the emotions of the earlier songs in ways that may require some adjusting, especially for those accustomed to the originals. “Start Your Descent,” for example, feels initially foreign without the orchestral strings. But with repeated listenings, you learn to appreciate it as a new delicate acoustic song. 2006’s “Boxing Day” has been transformed from a simple guitar ditty to a slow piano ballad while 2012’s “Give it Back” has been reborn heavier and almost a full minute shorter.

Check out the lyric video for “Give it Back:”

New arrangements make the old new again; 2008’s “Shoot First” has been stripped down to a simpler version that pulls its intense lyrics (“your heart is tearing us apart; shoot first, you know it’s gonna hurt”) to the forefront. Others, like 2012’s “Warm Seas,” have been rendered more complex and cohesive.

The rewired “137” is somehow less scary than its 2002 predecessor, appearing prettier and quieter in 2022. Similarly, the rewiring of 2012’s “Last Man Standing” is less emotionally charged and angry, instead presented as a more subtly sad dichotomy. Perhaps this simply represents Soord making peace with the more volatile emotions of his youth.

Nowhere is the revisitation of old emotions more heartfelt than on 2006’s “Little Man.” Lyrically, it’s a song full of the pain of a recent loss—and it remains so, though the quality has changed in nuanced ways expressed through the tender vocals. “The wounds won’t heal in time,” Soord sings on both versions, “there’s nowhere we will go without you, you know.” The grief is fresher in 2006, but no less felt in 2022. Artistically, it’s a stroke of genius—presenting this song 16 years later shows how the pain of loss changes over time but never diminishes. While peace can be made, gone never equals forgotten.

Give it Back – Rewired is a truly novel exploration of old creations from two different perspectives. For Harrison, it is a way of adding himself to the band’s back catalog retroactively. While he didn’t formally join until 2018, he regularly performs the band’s songs—which date back to 2002 – live and sought a way to connect with the music. For Soord, it is a reevaluation of his previous work, and in many cases, a reopening of old wounds.

Instead of letting the past lie, Soord and Harrison poke and prod at it—or prog at it, if you will—coming up with something completely new. Give it Back -Rewired contains songs from five previously released Pineapple Thief albums, but they are presented as you’ve never heard them before. Songs like “Wretched Soul” and “Build a World” are more powerful in their rewired forms and may find renewed mass appeal, although they are more or less still the same songs. Others, like “Start Your Descent” and “Boxing Day,” are completely transformed and rendered anew. Through Soord’s vocal reimaginings, songs like “137,” “Last Man Standing,” and “Little Man” become statement pieces for how our emotions change over time.

For a taste of their live shows, check out this performance of “Wretched Soul:”

Perhaps most importantly, Soord and Harrison had fun with the rewiring process. “It was a lot of fun to do,” Soord said, “even if it felt a little strange at times going back in time.” Revisiting the past—especially considering some of the darker lyrical themes of earlier albums—could easily have been a much pointier double-edged sword. “Bruce encouraged me to go as far as I wanted (including writing whole new sections),” Harrison added, going on to say, “after all, the original already existed—so why not breathe new life into these earlier songs?”

Give it Back -Rewired will surely be enjoyed by old and new listeners alike—even if some diehard fans might need to keep open—and rewired—minds to do it!

Give It Back – Rewired is out now via Kscope.

Purchase the album here.

Fans of Muse, Placebo, King Crimson, Katatonia, and Porcupine Tree should check this one out!

Catch The Pineapple Thief on tour!

July 22, 2022 – Night of the Prog 2022 – Bornich, Germany
July 24, 2022 – ArtMania Festival 2022 – Sibiu, Romania
February 9, 2023 – Joy Station – Sofia, Bulgaria
March 4, 2023 – Teatro La Cùpola – Santiago, Chile
March 9, 2023 – C3 Stage – Guadalajara, Mexico
March 11, 2023 – Lunario – Ciudad de México, Mexico

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