The term British prog rock always seems to evoke soft, hypnotic and depressing melodies. And while Magnolia definitely has enough mesmerising melodies to last a life time, The Pineapple Thief throw guitar driven, almost aggressive tracks at you with an equal amount of finesse.
The Pineapple Thief have taken the long progressive song writing approach away in their 10th record, with only one song breaking the 5 minute mark, and others barely pushing over 4. Founder Bruce Soord explained that it was no longer about being “rock or progressive or commercial,” all he cares about is “writing a good song” and found that he “could say everything [he] wanted to say within a shorter period of time.” And so that’s what we have with the 12 tracks of Magnolia. Whether they be more rock, or progressive, or melodious than the others doesn’t matter. Of course they all fit together, but The Pineapple Thief show their ability to create a brilliant soundscape in just 3 minutes, and have it not feel empty, or incomplete.
There is a sense of haphazardness in Magnolia, but for me it works. The placement of the songs can seem odd to some, as the album opens with “Simple As That”, a guitar driven, aggressive (compared to the rest of the record) track and “Alone at Sea”, an electro 80’s sounding upbeat track, complete with aggressive guitar work, which sets things up for a heavier alternative sound, before The Pineapple Thief applies the brakes and the album begins its foray into that melodious and hypnotic Brit prog rock sound.
It could seem a little stop and start to some, but I find it holds my attention. The Pineapple Thief ease the brakes with “Don’t Tell Me”, before hitting a red light and sticking with moody, mesmerising rock for “Magnolia” and “Season’s Past.” If we stayed there idling in neutral I’d get bored. And probably depressed. That’s not to say the slow tracks are bad, but you can always have too much of a good thing.
The Pineapple Thief starts moving with “Coming Home” bringing back that aggressive prog rock feel we heard when we started, and from there the album follows a similar pattern. I like getting lost in the hypnotic melodies created here, but I also like being brought back down with the heavier sounds. The heavier tracks aren’t ostentatious in your face aggression, either. They kind of slow burn, to ease you into it.
Magnolia may have a sense of simplicity, due to the shorter songs, but pay attention and the record is full of complex layers. Always able to work the moody melodies to their advantage The Pineapple Thief still show off their best asset, but manage to do it in a slightly different way. And after 10 albums, a little change is a good thing.