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King Crimson - Beat CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.08 | 1213 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review whichwhatways, Beat, King Crimson, 1982 StarStarStar

Beat is sometimes considered the worst of King Crimson's efforts, and looking at some of the negative reviews here, I have to admit there's some justification for that. The rhythm section is much more restrained than elsewhere, not providing the textural backdrop of Discipline. Belew's prominent lyrics and delivery might chagrin some, even if they do work for me. I suppose the question is whether you view these things as flaws, or merely as features. Sure, Bruford is the storm of percussion he was on SABB, but that gives a much greater chance for the guitar interplay to be heard. Yes, the lyrics and vocals are a key feature, but they are well-written shots of ambiguity, and they mark an attempt of Crimson to move themselves on rather than merely re-doing Discipline.

This is also quite odd as a Crimson album since it contains a genuine concept, but I don't know enough about the subject matter to say anything other than that it gives the album a coherent feel, and the music matches up neatly with the lyrical ideas. The other really significant feature of the album is the significant reliance on the twin lead guitars. Fripp and Belew provide a range of fiery textures and solos, extended and brief, and they, with the vocals, make the mood of just about every song. That might be a bit too lacking in diversity for some, but it does add interest for me.

Neil And Jack And Me opens the album with a series of guitar loops, Belew's shouted, whispered and sung, distorted and clean, often repeated vocals and a supportive rhythm section. Bruford saves up his cymbal crashes to make maximum impact, and Levin's gritty stabs on bass punctuate the piece. The guitars, however, are the real highlight, with a brief background soundscape, a unique solo from Fripp and maddened screeches from Belew. A classy opening, establishing the feel of the album.

Heartbeat follows this well, with two absolutely beautiful guitar tones, a restrained bass part evoking the heartbeat, tolerable lyrics and vocals from Belew. Bruford puts a relatively limited percussion range to extensive use, and the song as a whole is quite neatly arranged. It has a 'pop' feel, but I think this more derives from the limited instrumental choices and vocals than a lack of unusual and creative input.

The instrumental Sartori In Tangier provides a little more material to look at, from Fripp's organ work and soprano-sax-on-guitar-solo to a compulsive bass throb from Levin, which is taken up by Bruford later on. All sorts of weird textures feature fluidly, creating a sort of continuous musical image. Very accomplished, even if it is basically Mr. Fripp's three minute playground.

Waiting Man continues the very textural feel, with Belew's calling (needs a better word, but lacks one) vocal overlaying a static worldish rhythm under which Levin subtly shifts bass tones. A very intricate guitar-drums-guitar interplay section followed by a scraily (screechy+waily, but in a good way) Fripp solo features, allowing for a much fuller re-working of the opening texture.

The bizarre Neurotica is perhaps the highlight of the album, with the first true breakout of the rhythm section. Levin and Bruford are playing constantly, always providing something interesting in the background, while Belew's mostly-nonsensical vocals act don't really feel like a lead instrument, taking the back spot a bit more except in the weaker 'chorus'. Again, the guitars are on good form, providing all sorts of lunatic scrails for good measure.

Two Hands is the one piece from the album that simply doesn't do a lot for me. The boobam rhythm section and guitar touches all sound nice, and the sort of decadent romanticism is perfectly evoked. The guitar solo is sublime. The only problem is that I don't like the lyrics (they're not bad, just not my style at all), and the delivery doesn't do a lot for me either, and they make it harder for me to really enjoy the fleeting perfection encapsulated in the middle of the song.

The Howler is a faster-paced piece, with a generally wailing band accompanying a quite interesting sort of side-spoken vocal from Belew and some rather vicious lyrical touches. Levin especially provides a lot of grit for the song, as does Fripp's sirens-esque solo. Good stuff, though the guitar loops grate a little.

Requiem is a real opportunity for Fripp to illustrate his creativity on scraily guitar very prominently, with an extended, fast-paced and moving solo. Belew provides creaky touches towards the end, while the rhythm section works around the guitar textures with thunderous rolls. I swear one of the more cleverly-veiled guitar parts is reprising something, but I can't work out what. A neat, textural, showcase conclusion, and one that does work for the album.

So, all in all, the songs are not individually at all weak, the guitar-work is an especial highlight throughout. On the other hand, those who aren't already big fans of Belew and Fripp's menagerie of sounds will not really find that much to enjoy. Consequently, if you aren't a fan of King Crimson (Discipline and Red in particular), this isn't an enormous gap in your collection, but if you are, or simply love unusual guitar-work, this is a very worthwhile purchase. Three stars, good, but not entirely essential.

Rating: Three Stars. Favourite Track: Requiem, I think, but it's a pretty even album, and could be Neal and Jack and Me or Neurotica on different days.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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