Monday, September 3, 2012

King Crimson 10: Discipline

The ‘80s actually did bring a lot of changes to music, which weren’t immediately apparent at the time. With the continued irrelevance of Yes and the softening of the Moody Blues and Genesis, the prog genre seemed to be classified as one of the excesses of the ‘70s. The smarter guys simply changed the rulebook. Or, if you were Robert Fripp, you reformed King Crimson.
The ‘80s lineup of the band was somewhat related to the one that split up after Red, in that Bill Bruford was still on drums. Tony Levin, fresh from playing on John Lennon’s last sessions, seemed a no-brainer on bass, thanks to his work with Peter Gabriel. But instead of a singing bass player, Fripp took a left turn with the addition of Adrian Belew on vocals and guitar, having recently helped out people as varied as Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Talking Heads. According to Fripp, the band came together first, and it was only after they’d played a few shows that they realized it was King Crimson music. The original name for the quartet became the title of their first album, Discipline.
A tapped bass or Chapman stick sets the program spinning like a top, evolving into a funky figure for Belew to shout words over. “Elephant Talk” is upbeat without being assaultive, and the same can be said for “Frame By Frame”, all spiky chords and dizzying picking. “Matte Kudasai” is nice and dreamy, with a strong melody, but “Indiscipline” returns to the edgy delivery of “Elephant Talk”.
Side two has only one song with a vocal, and that’s “Thela Hun Gingeet”, which maintains the tension with a frenetic African rhythm beating away underneath the chanted melody and a monologue about a street encounter. The rest of the side is instrumental—“The Sheltering Sky” is moody and Arabian, almost like the Police, with strikingly processed guitars, and the title track uses countless polyrhythms, building and building and then just stopping.
It’s Fripp’s band, so he can call it anything he wants. It seems odd for a King Crimson album to not have a Mellotron, and that’s one thing that keeps it from being prog. Discipline does show a progression when viewed in the context of his solo album and other late-‘70s projects. (The League Of Gentlemen, for example, carried on from “discotronics”, which added beats to Frippertronic improvisations. Clearly, he wanted to be in a band.) And if you can stand Adrian Belew’s voice, which does sound a bit like David Byrne’s, then you’ll be fine.
The first expansion of the album added an alternate take of “Matte Kudasai”; this was only included on the DVD portion of the next expansion, alongside several audiophile curios. That CD added two other alternate mixes, plus snippets of “Adrian’s vocal loops”. For more confusion, the streaming version of the album does include the alternate “Matte Kudesai”, along with an 11-minute montage of further alternate mixes and “The Terrifying Tale Of Thela Hun Gingeet”, which combines Fripp’s commentary, Adrian’s original recap, and a live version of the song from 1982.

King Crimson Discipline (1981)—
2001 30th Anniversary Edition: same as 1981, plus 1 extra track
2011 40th Anniversary Edition: same as 1981, plus 4 extra tracks (plus DVD)

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