A middling album from Gentle Giant's later period, falling somewhere in between their most inspired pieces of baroque intricacy such as "Octopus" and their later, unsuccessful takes on straight pop. It's often seen paired with "Free Hand" in a two-albums-on-one-CD reissue. That makes a suitable partner, as their sound is cleaner, but still based on those maddening rhythms and jerky counterpoint. The lyrics betray an increased weariness with the music biz, and their songwriting is a notch down from previous releases, but their mastery of arrangement and band interplay still make this listenable.
The token complex vocal-harmony showpiece "Design" is entertaining as usual, if not quite as breathtaking as "Knots" or "On Reflection". The driving rocker "Another Show", and the resonant slower sections of "Empty City" are highlights that excuse the somewhat cold and mechanical "Timing". A chiming reggae beat even creeps into "Give it Back", but only just, as mortals will still find it difficult to tell what time signature it is in! The graceful medieval introduction and its subsequent rocking transformation make "I Lost My Head" the stand-out track.
December 29, 2004