Acquiring the Taste review by Glen Bourgeois

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Acquiring The Taste:
The Darker Side of Gentle Giant Triumphs

Glen Bourgeois,
7 February 1997

For a band who'd only been together a few number of years, both as a touring unit and a recording group, Shulmans and Co. were getting to be pretty innovative with their ideas. Whereas "Gentle Giant", their debut album, was arguably more simplistic than later efforts, going to include a pretty standard "God Save The Queen" near the end (Didn't Jimi do a better job?), and also delightfully airy at times ("Nothing at All") or all-out rocking ("Giant", "Why Not?", "Alucard"), "Acquiring the Taste" stands out as Gentle Giant's first triumph at creating a hauntingly shadow-filled aura around their songs which definitely rings as progressive. To have a full album stand out as a spine-tingling experience, not much unlike classic detective novels and timeless horror movies, is a gift that is best cherished on a stormy evening or a foggy day.

"The Queen" reappears, yet doesn't, as she is alluded to by four simple notes during "Edge of Twilight", a song whose title describes best the feel of the album. Repeated, their presence is understated yet always felt, although creepily. "The House, The Street, The Room" shares the former song's dark nature, as it plods mercilessly through chord structures unknown to Top 40, pausing slightly from time to time to let the listener breath while enjoying Kerry's delicate voice. "The Moon is Down" is sheer excellence, combining FM sparkle (the 12-string-guitar/saxophones/clavinet section displays undeniably strong hooks),with a cinema noir feeling (Sorry Dan, I'm not exactly sure what cinema noir means but I have a feeling I do, so if this sounds extremely bizarre to you, let me know, and I'll rearrange it.) in the verses. Even playful songs like "Pantagruel's Nativity" and "Black Cat" cannot hide the fact that darkness and night lurk throughout this album. An added feature inside "Pantagruel's Nativity" is the ballsily bluesy middle section, where Gary Green gets to display his roots in full colour. Heavy is the truly operative word here.

"Plain Truth" rocks outright, as does "Wreck", the latter which also imposes a cinematic feel with its breaks and pauses. "Acquiring the Taste", the shortest as well as the lightest track on the album, is perhaps the only song that does not fit within the nocturnal theme. Perhaps this track was meant as a breather. After all, the group more than likely didn't want their fans' hearts to permanently stop beating.

All in all, this album has more than not become the Gentle Giant album I reach for when I wish to hear a perfectly-crafted GG song (and usually the track I play is "The Moon is Down", no less.). Best results when listened to moderately loudly in a dim room at night. Bonus points if there's a window through which one can see the moon shining brightly in an ethereal dark. This is the GG album to play on Hallowe'en. A breath-taker.