Review Summary: The seeds are blossoming; An essential release for any fan and a great starting place for everyone else
For me, an album's artwork is almost as important as the music itself. A striking cover could pike your interest to try an album that you'll later adore, or a cover that fits beautifully with the music could help you understand what feeling the artist is trying to create and possibly enjoy the album more.
The music of What We Have Sown
perfectly fits the windswept and bleak, yet lush and sunny environment of south-west England captured in the artwork, making for a bracing experience, picturing yourself drifting through that very landscape.
Exploiting the band's intimate sound to its best with a largely acoustic-driven first half gives a natural, organic feel, especially in the impressive Well, I Think That's What You Said"
. A mostly instrumental piece with a tender atmospheric violin and excellent percussion, it's a reminder of how vital the duo of Keith Harrison's percussion and Bruce Soord's song-writing are to The Pineapple Thief's sound.
While Soord can write something beautiful, it's often Harrison's understated but masterful drumming that truly makes
the song. This is no more evident than on possibly his greatest ever performance on West Winds
, the second, 9-minute instrumental that builds that image of a cold hilly landscape to its peak with a thunderous second half, started by his intense solo drumming.
Bruce Soord's huge talent cannot be ignored either. What makes this album so remarkable is that it is a collection of songs that had been left out of previous albums with a mammoth final track to flesh the length out, and yet the album easily stands up to the Soord's other work as one of the band's best.
His finesse as a guitarist is evident on All You Need To Know
's heart-wrenching solo and with its ability to drive that last track without it feeling a minute too long, despite being near the half-hour mark. He also shows his unique identity with West Winds' evolution from guitar riff to piano melody with a brilliant crescendo thrown in the middle, plus the violin and acoustic guitar that laces Deep Blue World
's poignant lyrics.
The bonus tracks, from an album of bonus tracks, are also not to be missed. You Sign Out
's cymbal-crashing middle section and passionate vocals of "I don't know what to say / please don't go / don't go" and Before It Costs Us
' low-key acoustic bookend are welcome additions.
The only dud song on the album is Take Me With You
, which does not bring anything new to the table and has an unfitting and pretty much pointless 'surprise ending' just after you thought the song had finished, making it drag on for far too long.
The album's main problem is that it marks the point in the band's career where they have explored most of the possibilities and have become comfortable in their trademark sound, meaning that while it is and overwhelmingly enjoyable listen, there are only a few occasions when we see the band actually trying something new.
This makes the 28 minutes and 46 second closer of What Have We Sown"
especially satisfying, being the longest song The Pineapple Thief have ever attempted and a resounding success. The band has time to stretch itself out and create a chilling soundscape, led by threatening electronics with Soord exploring both ends of his guitar and Harrison giving us some deliciously varied drum fills. The song goes through several stages, sometimes dropping to the quiet sounds of blowing wind or building to multiple climaxes (hurr hurr) to keep us hooked.
Throughout its length, the track gives a perfect representation of all the best aspects of the band's sound at the time and their expert songcraft after almost 10 years of existence.
This makes the album a fitting way to mark the end of an era as they move on to a new record label, new exposure and eventually a completely revamped sound.