For Bruce Soord, there’s a quote that sums up Versions Of The Truth, the stunning new album from his band The Pineapple Thief. It comes from The Leopard, Tomasi di Lampedusa’s 1958 novel about political ambition and personal upheaval in 19th century Sicily:
‘... a fact has scarcely happened five minutes before its genuine kernel has vanished, been camouflaged, embellished, disfigured, squashed, annihilated by imagination and self-interest; shame, fear, generosity, malice, opportunism, charity, all the passions, good as well as evil, fling themselves onto the fact and tear it to pieces; very soon it has vanished altogether’
di Lampedusa wrote those words more than 60 years ago, but for Soord they are more pertinent than ever. From the political to the personal, from world leaders to personal friends and enemies, truth is more than just a malleable commodity – it’s a weapon in the hands of whoever wields it.
That blurring between the real and the perceived, between meaning and intent, is the idea behind Versions Of The Truth. It’s an album that holds up a mirror to the chaos and conflict of 21st-century life and tries to make sense of the distorted reflections that gaze back at it. The title says it all: this is the soundtrack for a post-truth world.
“When you have conflict, the truth gets bent and kicked around, the facts get changed,” says Bruce Soord. “That’s why people argue or get divorced or fight – because nobody can agree on what the truth is. That idea of different versions of the truth especially applies to the world we’re living in right now. All these things are happening where nobody has any idea of what the real truth of anything is because everything is so distorted.”
What has emerged stands as The Pineapple Thief’s finest album yet. It takes the creative and commercial triumphs of their last two albums, 2016’s breakthrough Your Wilderness and its follow-up Dissolution, and magnifies them. Musically bold and lyrically thought-provoking, this is the sound of a band determined to push themselves forward.
“You strive to make something different with every album,” says Soord. “We didn’t want to make another Dissolution. We didn’t want to make another Your Wilderness. We wanted something that sounded different, yet still sounded like The Pineapple Thief.”
“I think our sound has evolved, and these new songs are more to the point,” adds drummer Gavin Harrison.
Inspired by the success of Dissolution, which gave TPT their first UK Top 40 album, as well as the birth of his baby daughter, Soord began working on music for the band’s next album. “Four or five” songs emerged from this burst of creativity, the very first track of which was the album’s lead single Demons, a track whose deceptively upbeat sound masks a deep well of emotion and darkness.
“I’ve never written a song that has that kind of playful, bouncy vibe, but with such dark lyrics,” says Soord. “At a certain point the song breaks down and it suddenly dawns: ‘Hold on, this is a really dark song.’ It’s one of the most direct songs in terms of sentiment: the older you get, the more demons are idling in your closet, and you have to learn to live with them.”
As Soord continued writing, he began bouncing ideas off Gavin Harrison, the former Porcupine Tree/King Crimson drummer who joined The Pineapple Thief in 2014.
“I think we now understand each other musically more than before and have refined a method of working that is productive,” says Harrison. “Although we both come from very different musical backgrounds our collective sense of what is correct for the project is absolutely on the same page.”
The album was written in two major sessions, separated by The Pineapple Thief’s biggest US tour to date and the release of Soord’s second solo album, 2019’s All This Will Be Yours. “The songs really benefited from that break,” says Soord. “I listened to the first batch and they felt really fresh, and so I was inspired to go and write some more.”
Produced by the four members of the band themselves – Soord and Harrison plus bassist Jon Sykes and keyboard player Steve Kitch – Versions Of The Truth marries a stellar musical breadth to a spectrum of emotions that run from anger and confusion to sadness and regret and even glimmers of hope. In places, the album is starkly autobiographical. In others, it confronts the chaos of modern life head-on.
The darkly anthemic title track opens the album and sows the seeds for what follows. Alluding to broken friendships and how the truth becomes the first casualty even in the most personal conflicts, it finds Soord approaching the subject from two opposite yet connected perspectives. “There’s one person saying one thing, then it jumps to the other person going, ‘Wait, that’s not how I remember it, they’ve sold me out.’ It keeps jumping until the end, where both people are saying exactly the same thing.”
That very personal undercurrent flows beneath the entire album. The haunting and nocturnal Driving Like Maniacs paints a vivid picture of a friendship always destined to crash and burn. “It’s about those relationships that are so fast and intense – too fast and intense to last,” says Soord. “There comes a point where you have to give up, you have to lift your hand from the wheel and say, ‘That’s it.’”
Elsewhere, the seven-and-a-half minute Our Mire finds Soord addressing the consequences that come in the wake of a broken relationship, jagged edges poking through its otherwise calm musical surface before a striking coda lead plunges it down into darker depths. Out Of Line looks at missed opportunities and missed chances – those moments when we could have stopped something but chose not to or maybe didn’t see that we had to.
“That idea can apply to life or to society,’ says Soord. “Everybody knows we’re ruining the planet, everybody knew there was going to be a pandemic at some point, but we ignore it and ignore it until it’s too late. ”
Just as Versions Of The Truth runs the gamut of emotions, so it draws from a breathtakingly broad musical palette. Where Demons is sonically upbeat, Break It All bristles with aggression and narcissistic self-loathing. The deliberately subdued atmospherics of Too Many Voices is punctuated by the quiet cacophony of an internal choir, while an air of quiet menace underpins Leave Me Be. The title track and Stop Making Sense even feature the appearance of a marimba – a percussive instrument resembling a giant xylophone.
“I was working on one of the demos and it just hit me that the marimba might sound good,” explains Harrison. “I have owned a marimba for more than 10 years now and I occasionally play it on projects and play it a little bit for fun. When I look across my studio I can see it sitting there. So I thought, ‘Why not?’ I wanted to create the feeling of a bustling, busy street scene. It’s quite a different sound for Pineapple Thief but I think it really works.”
Stop Making Sense is one of the album’s key moments, offering a flash of hope amid the darkness. What starts out as an all-too-timely dissection of people who will do and say anything they need to to get what they want flips on its head at the song’s climax. “That song is ultimately about having somebody with you that’s true, and that you can believe in,” says Soord. “At the end, the lyrics change from me singing, ‘They stop making sense to me’, to me going, ‘Without you, this makes no sense to me.’”
The album concludes on an unexpected note. Where past albums have ended with a grandly epic climax, here closing track The Game seethes with barely suppressed anger. “You’re taking us all for fools/You’re selling us down the river,” sings Soord over music whose slow-building tension hides a palpable fury.
“Everybody has had enough, people are thinking, ‘What is going on, what has happened to the world?’’ he says. “You have to hope that the truth will prevail at some point.”
The themes of the album – ever-changing perspectives and malleable truths – are reflected in its artwork. An etching by the late German artist Michael Schoenholtz, it features a series of kinetic, abstract shapes that seem to reveal a different image to whoever looks at it. Gavin Harrison came across the etching just as the band were finishing Versions Of The Truth, and showed it to his bandmates.
“That particular etching just seemed to resonate with me,” says Harrison. “Within five minutes we had all chosen the same image. It was the fastest selection process of a band that I’ve ever witnessed. As is often the case with modern contemporary art, different people find different meaning within it. Personally I see it as an intriguing maze that depicts the mental process of creativity. It never has straight lines.”
That creativity, that sense of the unexpected and often unsettling, flows through this stunning album. With it, The Pineapple Thief are questioning the very nature of truth and the impact it has. In a world of deception, confusion and multiple versions of the truth, they stand as something to believe in.