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King Crimson - Larks' Tongues In Aspic CD (album) cover

LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.40 | 1966 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Red Jelly Babies escape from the box and finally reach maturity

The quantum leap represented by this album in the Crim catalogue cannot be overstated. Everything that followed should have cast an unflattering light on the unfocused and misguided promise of Crimson's prior juvenilia. But no, for reasons of perhaps lazy journalism or plain ignorant stereotyping, the red critter will be forever depicted as a bloated 'dainty' wheezing in the slipstream of a crushed velvet underground it had long outpaced and left miles behind. (The guys behind you sometimes turn out to be a lap ahead of you)

So much of the music presented here flies in the face of the prevailing prog zeitgeist of 1973 that were it not so facile a contention, we could be forgiven for stating that King Crimson were the first punk band. Gone are the stupefied noodlings of Islands - the twee gothic romance of In the Court - the self conscious cleverness of Lizard and the wet stoned nonsense of Poseidon (Yep, this is a U- turn incorporating six wheelies and the smell of burning rubber)

Instead, we are confronted with an unflinching and unforgiving discipline that somehow manages to harness jazz, classical, blues, pop, musique concrète, gamelan, african, raga, rock, metal and all points in-between (and unknown) during this record's duration. The 30th anniversary edition, which I'm reviewing here, has been lovingly remastered to salvage many hitherto sunken treasures from the original vinyl mix. Bruford's polyrhythmic kit work and the percussion salvo delivered by Jamie Muir are noticeably enhanced here to mesmerising effect.

It's a long time since I listened to Bartok's string quartets, but there are discernible quotations from these via the violin of Cross and the guitar of Fripp throughout Larks Tongues. I know that Bob has expressed a fondness for Bartok's chamber music in the past and of all the albums in Crimson's discography, the influence is at its most palpable here.

Our old buddy the tritone (augmented fourth) makes its presence felt in thrilling fashion on the corruscating Talking Drum which builds in ominous brooding fashion until the screaming and visceral climax is reached leaving the listener drained but delirious (like sex for the ears but without the mopping up and the cigarettes) PS Why then is it that every live version I have heard since butchers the original by playing it just way too darn fast? (Someone should tell the lads about foreplay methinks)

The spoken dialogue that uncloaks itself from the background on Larks Tongues in Aspic Part 1 just prior to the eastern tinged conclusion I think must belong to that of Jamie Muir (being the owner of a suitably thick Scottish brogue) but as to its significance re:

and hung by the neck until you are dead

still remains completely unfathomable?. It takes a lot of listens for the underlying structure of this track to reveal itself, but you will be rewarded for your patience, with music that lives long in the memory afterwards, so stick with it.

From the plaintive balladry of Exiles through the unadorned and exquisite brevity of Book of Saturday to the guttural funky rock of Easy Money there is not a single damp patch on the red mattress anywhere. The strident rock riffing, 'whisper to a scream' dynamics and instrumental interplay as evidenced on Larks Tongues Part 2 are worth the admission price alone, so buy the damn thing prog buddys and congratulate yourself on the gift of impeccable taste.

This is perhaps one of the most significant rock records of all time and one that completely dwarfs In the Court of the Crimson King in terms of innovation, daring and influence. If ever a band were deserving of the epithet 'eclectic' it is surely King Crimson, who have perhaps unwittingly, given many sympathetic musicians entire genres within which to extract their lucrative careers. The irony of the Crims parlous financial plight at around the time of this album will not be lost on you I am sure gentle readers.

It might be best to let Jamie Muir have the final say. After all who's going to argue with a man who played a musical saw on stage, left one of the greatest prog rock bands ever to join a remote Monastry in Scotland then finally became a painter?

- The way to discover the undiscovered in performing terms is to immediately reject all situations as you identify them (the cloud of unknowing) - which is to give music a future - (Jamie Muir)

ExittheLemming | 5/5 |

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