Musically, the band was very much an anachronism; Yes, Genesis and the Moody Blues had retooled their approaches to cover more pop and grasp at success on the Top 40 chart. The title track, despite its wacky meter, almost comes off as a pop song, with a willfully perverse synth guitar solo that sounds like someone trying to figure out his effects pedals while playing it. “Model Man” and “Man With An Open Heart” have enough elements to keep them contemporary as well, but both are just too unsettling to be effective. Built around Tony Levin’s tapped bass, “Sleepless” is an improvement and the best song on the album, if not this version of the band. Because Adrian Belew’s vocal dominates the songs with lyrics, it can be said that this doesn’t really sound like a Crimson (read: Fripp) album until “Nuages (That Which Passes, Passes Like Clouds)” and its layered guitars.
On the CD, without the separation of side one (the “Left Side”) and side two (the “Right Side”), it’s a seamless transition to “Industry”, with even more synth guitar exploration. In the mode of similar tracks on the “trilogy”, it escalates into tense chaos without ever losing track of the rigid beat. “Dig Me” is very jagged and challenging, stopping twice for a simple exhilarating “chorus” over major chords. “No Warning” is another ominous instrumental along the lines of “Industry” and again, unsettling. Daringly, the album ends with “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III”, which provides not only a suggested bridge to the mid-‘70s version of the band (two prior to this) but provides a finale for this lineup. As others have noted, the track fades before its resolution is revealed, an oddity in the catalog.
It’s probably a matter of taste, but considering Bill Bruford’s skill on acoustic percussion, his reliance on electronic drums here diminishes his contribution somewhat. Of the three albums by this lineup, Three Of A Perfect Pair places just below Discipline but above Beat. They should probably all be heard together as a set, but as they weren’t composed that way, that would explain why they remain separate entities. While we’re still more partial to the first album and Red, these have their moments and are certainly not wastes of plastic.
The first expansion of the album included a section called “The Other Side”, beginning with the wonderful all-Tony a cappella piece “The King Crimson Barber Shop”, which must be heard to be believed, along with two jams and three different remixes of “Sleepless” that scream mid-‘80s. (These extras are also part of the streaming version.) The next version relegated the remixes to the DVD, but added another jam and two more outtakes.
King Crimson Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984)—3
2001 30th Anniversary Edition: same as 1984, plus 6 extra tracks
2016 40th Anniversary Edition: same as 1984, plus 6 extra tracks (plus DVD)