Monday, September 17, 2012

King Crimson 10: Beat

Less than a year after their official return, King Crimson was back. Again. Beat follows much of the framework of Discipline—similar typeface, same four guys, minimal artwork. The album was intended as a nod to the Beat generation, but that’s only suggested in the lyrics and song titles; the music itself is post-modern with New Wave influences.
“Neal And Jack And Me” makes direct reference to the people behind On The Road. “Heartbeat” barely sounds like Fripp’s involved at all, being a mellow pop song that seems to foretell the construction of “Janie’s Got A Gun”. “Sartori In Tangier” is instrumental, beginning with a moody Chapman stick part and continuing with a nice Arabic groove. “Waiting Man” provides a couple of verses as a frame for an extended Fripp solo, which keeps it from being a Talking Heads track.
Finally there’s a blast of Crimson chaos on “Neurotica”, Bruford exploding all over his kit while the frets get pounded. A suitably nervous vocal babbles until the observer gets a chance to take things in, with the music calming down beside him. “Two Hands” is slow and pretty, likely a Belew composition with Fripp adding the solos, and most of the percussion seeming to come from bongos. “The Howler” fades in, constantly off-kilter musically and rhythmically, and it can’t help but suggest the Allen Ginsburg poem of similar name. “Requiem” would appear to be all Fripp—an organ plays a minor triad in back while he solos on top, Frippertronics-style—until the drums come in and the other guys can be heard pushing him along, and the scene gets uglier by the second, eventually ending on Tony Levin’s bass.
With what seems like more of an emphasis on accessibility, Beat doesn’t quite succeed. Adrian Belew’s a little more restrained vocally on this album, but overall it fails to capture one’s attention. Of course, when it does, it sounds like nothing else. (The eventual expansion nearly doubled the length of “Requiem” with even more Frippertronics, and added a bonus in the way of “Absent Lovers”, an instrumental outtake from the album sessions.)

King Crimson Beat (1982)—
2016 40th Anniversary Edition: “same” as 1982, plus 1 extra track (plus DVD)

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