Ah, Mellotron, glorious Mellotron. As the initial strains of album opener “All You Need to Know” kick in, the Pineapple Thief treat their listeners to lush pads of the greatest analog keyboard of all time (sorry, Hammond organ, no offense). Like Radiohead, the Pineapple Thief know how to use this extremely evocative instrument outside of the overtly prog rock context in which it is customarily heard. In the case of What We Have Sown, that context is equal parts 1990’s pop-alternative and indie-rock exploration; for every track like “All You Need to Know” there is a moody instrumental piece like “West Winds” or the Led Zeppelin-meets-Radiohead of “Well, I Think That’s What You Said?”
Hmm, that’s two Radiohead comparisons within a single paragraph. Yes, singer Bruce Soord’s falsetto bears a surprising resemblance at times to Thom Yorke’s, but the Pineapple Thief is not a carbon copy of Radiohead. We prefer to think of them as a great example of divergent development, of what Radiohead could have been if, after The Bends, they had never bought any Amon Duul II or Can records.
This is certainly not to say that What We Have Sown is devoid of experimentation; the twenty-seven minute “What Have We Sown?” is a hugely ambitious and quite wonderful suite of changing textures that drips with emotion as well as chutzpah. It is just that the experimentation in which the Pineapple Thief engages does not take the form of “edgy” sounds or production techniques, but is concerned with more traditional elements of arranging and writing: chords, melodies, and harmonies. In the end, this album is so successful for no other reason than that it blends haunting melodies with lush but uncluttered production. What We Have Sown has directness and hooks enough to capture us at first spin, but also offers us lots to explore as well, rewarding repeated and focused listens.