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King Crimson - Beat CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.08 | 1216 ratings

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4 stars As reflected by its current rating, Beat seems to be unanimously considered as the mighty Crimso's weakest effort. Because of this poor reputation, it took me a while to take the plunge and buy it - but, when I listened to it in its entirety for the first time, I could not help wondering. A bad album? Think twice... Though, just like In the Wake of Poseidon, it may suffer from comparisons with its predecessor, the ground-breaking Discipline, the more I listen to Beat the more I think it is one of the most underrated albums in prog, and one of the most unfairly judged.

Discipline #2? Maybe.... There are a lot of undeniable similarities in the two albums, though I would say that Beat can definitely harder to get into - which makes allegations of its being 'poppy' somewhat hard to explain. With the exception of Heartbeat (the best-known track on the album by far) and Two Hands, there is very little about Beat that can be termed poppy in any strict sense of the word. While Adrian Belew's vocals can undoubtedly be an acquired taste, and remind some listeners of 'new wave' singers, there is also little doubt he is someone who knows how to use his voice to great effect, and his style fits KC's sound to a T. Another factor that may put some people off can be the occasional use of that bane of prog fans, electronic drums - though here they are in the hands of one Bill Bruford, which makes all the difference.

Another accusation levelled at "Beat" is that it is somewhat cold and contrived. In my view, right from the start KC have always managed to reach the ideal balance between emotional and cerebral, as exemplified in their very first album - by the likes of "Epitaph" and "Moonchild". That said, I am aware that the band's Eighties incarnation has many aspects that set it apart from 'traditional' prog, with the exception of the inevitable technical proficiency. Belew's slightly neurotic, NY-style vocals are miles apart from Lake's smooth tones, or Wetton's warmly rough ones, and the uncanny precision of the rhythm section can sound almost inhuman. However, there is something profoundly fascinating about the atmospheres conjured by Fripp's and Belew's duelling guitars, something that in a way seems to reflect the whole mood of the decade. KC in the Eighties may not be your cup of tea, but they were clearly, authentically PROGRESSING, as they have never stopped doing.

As I said earlier, most of the tracks on "Beat" somewhat parallel those in "Discipline" - with "Neurotica" reprising the concept of "Indiscipline", and "Two Hands" reminiscent of "Matte Kudasai". Opener "Neal and Jack and Me" is not as immediate as "Elephant Talk", but offers a stunning vocal performance from Belew, and complex instrumental interaction; while album closer "Requiem", heavier and darker (as per its title) than the scintillating, razor-sharp "Discipline", allows Bruford some room for his dazzling drum antics. Another highlight is "Sartori in Tangier", a brooding, haunting instrumental in the style of "The Sheltering Sky", though definitely more electrified.

From what I have written above you might infer this is not a very original album, and that, coupled with the other, mostly lukewarm-to-negative reviews, might convince you to give it a miss. Though my words are obviously no guarantee, I think you should approach "Beat" with an open mind, being aware of the definite similarities with its predecessor, but also receptive to its many strengths. After all, this is (at least in my opinion) the band whose output defined progressive rock - a band capable of reinventing themselves time and time again.

Whenever I add a half-star to any standard rating, I usually round the rating down. In this case, I will round it up to four stars, since I believe "Beat" does not deserve the bad press it gets. You might be pleasantly surprised when you finally listen to it - I know I was.

Raff | 4/5 |


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