Friday, January 11, 2013

King Crimson 14: The Power To Believe

Despite most people’s expectations, King Crimson actually surfaced in the 21st century. The Power To Believe retained the same quartet from the previous album, and is something of a piece, with its intricate fake-delay guitars and electronically enhanced percussion. There seems to be less emphasis on upfront vocals, which is fine.
The title track is split into four parts, and we haven’t listened to them enough times to figure out how they connect. Granted, the first part is a cappella, a processed vocalizing that recurs throughout. The second seems to have several other sections within it; the third supports a lengthy slow Fripp solo, and the coda is almost Enoesque (until the vocals come in). “Level Five” is textbook Crimson, pounding a non-standard time signature into submission with staccato emphasis; similarly “Elektrik” should be pleasing to shredheads. If there’s a radio-friendly single on the album, it’s “Eyes Wide Open”, but even that might be considered too light for the band and the prog genre overall. “Facts Of Life” has a long, dull intro (indexed separately) and lyrics that think too much, but an experiment that works once you figure out the point is “Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With”, a skewering of the nu-metal scene and how their songs are constructed (“I guess I’ll repeat the chorus/we’re gonna repeat the chorus”). “Dangerous Curves” builds in the style of “The Devil’s Triangle”, and overall the album seems to hearkening back to the Crimson of the early ‘70s.
Something of a preview (a la Vrooom for Thrak) appeared in the form of Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With. Three new songs-with-vocals are linked by short, processed a cappella pieces and instrumentals. A ten-minute live version of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part IV)” is pretty cool, and the set ends with a collage of snippets from the studio, some humorous. The one song that didn’t appear on The Power To Believe was “Potato Pie”, which extended some of the “blues” experiments of the last album.
History has shown that nothing is set in stone, but for now, this is the last King Crimson album, Fripp having semi-retired but still authorizing archival releases and fighting for the rights of the musician. He has left a legacy that is challenging, inspiring, unpredictable and, for those who have made the plunge, highly rewarding.

King Crimson The Power To Believe (2003)—3

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