Friday, May 01, 2009

King Crimson's Discipline

Amongst the mind-bogglingly disparate line-ups that progressive-rock luminaries King Crimson have gone through, the 1980s incarnation is arguably the most accomplished and accessible, by virtue of their admirable instrumental chops and pop song-like approach to songwriting. Perpetual Crimson mastermind Robert Fripp still led the band with his array of ingenious guitar textures and patented Frippertronic soundscapes, but the band's artistic blueprint was dramatically enriched by the several important additions. Adrian Belew's terse, angular lead-guitar lines and confident vocals, Tony Levin's frighteningly adept bass improvisations, and Bill Bruford's extraordinary percussion work all served to strengthen the new-look King Crimson. This resulted in tons of critical acclaim, and even a handful of charting, if expectedly leftfield hits that came as a definite breath of fresh air in that era of New Romantic poseurs and post-punk naysayers.

This particular Crimson line-up's most realised album remains their first one together, 1981's 'Discipline'. The rollicking 'Elephant Talk' kicks things off here, a jaw-droppingly ingenious interpretation of early-1980s new-wave sensibilities, complete with a quirkily confident vocal from Belew. The following 'Frame by Frame', an effortless, amazing study in polyrhythms, displays why this group works so well together, with Belew's primal guitar screeches perfectly complementing Fripp's studied prowess.

The pace slows down for the soaring, sweeping 'Matte Kudasai', a solid example of the band's unique take on classic pop-song balladry (a rough demo version of this tune comprises the single bonus track on this reissue). However, the following 'Indiscipline' is a walk on the wild side, as Belew indulges in a stream-of-consciousness narrative over a manic, but controlled, funk-rock arrangement. Elsewhere, the intentionally dissonant 'Thela Hun Ginjeet' (an anagram of 'Heat in the Jungle') is a strident, ballsy rocker with lots of high-speed bass passages and some metallic guitar duelling towards the end.

'The Sheltering Sky' is a virtual showcase for Fripp's infamous Frippertronic guitar-playing technique, as he meticulously builds an intricate, otherworldly atmosphere from flighty arpeggios, hypnotic rhythms and some appropriately atonal improvisations. Crimson saves the best for last with the title track, an impossibly tight, mind-bogglingly complex showcase in polyrhythmic guitar dynamics, supported by a churning, syncopated bass foundation and steadfast electronic-drum fills.

Simply put, 'Discipline' is a highly essential part of any King Crimson aficionado's hallowed library, or any serious rock devotee's record collection, for that matter. Even though nearly three decades have passed since its initial release, the record still sounds as fresh and exciting as ever, which is more than one can say about anything else dating from that particular period in rock history. Nothing else approaches its singular, proficient artistry, and the album firmly verifies the 1980s King Crimson as one of the best in the group's history.


Blogger xiang yun said...

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4:31 PM  

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