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King Crimson - Three of a Perfect Pair CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.28 | 1218 ratings

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4 stars

King Crimson's third consecutive album with the Belew/Levin/Fripp/Bruford lineup (and I'll say right away that I think this is one of the best lineups any band could hope to have) diverges from Discipline in two different directions: its songs are either more accessible (mostly on the "Left Side") or more experimental (on the "Right Side"). I feel that Discipline had already attained a nice balance between the two, and so in this regard Three of a Perfect Pair is not as good. This shouldn't, however, be construed as saying this is a bad album; Discipline is one of the best albums of all time! And it is still a quality collection of "math pop". The songs are all still pleasant/interesting (first and second side, respectively) to listen to.

The opening title track brings out the Belew-Fripp interplay in full force, and does so excellently. Bruford also plays an interesting but steady beat throughout the piece. In general, it switches back and forth between the constant barrage of notes that characterized the other two 80s Krimson albums and a more halting style. While I do enjoy that contrast, the song does become a bit less interesting after a while; apart from a somewhat unremarkable mid-song solo, it just repeats the verse & chorus.

The following track, "Model Man", lacks that nice interplay, but it also effectively uses unusual guitar tones and some nice key shifts to spice up what otherwise would be a pretty unremarkable pop song. Nevertheless, it's probably my least favorite song from the first side.

After this, however, comes "Sleepless", which is where the album really hits its stride. It starts off with some astounding slapped basswork from Levin, leading into an ethereal, echoing section, but later it switches into an interplay section, without losing the driving beat from Bruford and Levin that pervades the piece. There's also a nice solo in the middle preserving the contrast between ethereal and driving. On top of this are Adrian Belew's vocals, which are particularly effective in this song. It's both catchy and musically interesting.

The next track, "Man with an Open Heart" (which, along with "Model Man" and Beat's "Waiting Man", completes the totally irrelevant and likely unintentional "Man" trilogy of Krimson songs) is quite poppy, like "Model Man", but also uses some wildly pitch-sliding guitar to give the song a distinctly off-kilter feeling, only to have it snap back to normalcy in the chorus. It is also quite catchy.

"Nuages (That Which Passes, Passes Like Clouds)" feels a bit like an attempt to redo "The Sheltering Sky", but it does not measure up. It is a perfectly good ambient piece, however, with some particularly interesting plunking percussion and bass throughout

The second side of the album begins with the ominous and minimal "Industry"--which could almost be considered the evil twin of "Nuages". On top of a heavy, repetitive beat, a guitar synth sound which is almost like a violin, sweeps in and out. Eventually, Levin suddenly begins slapping and Bruford peppers the background with fills on the electronic drums, which is quite startling. Then a second guitar synth, menacing and blaring, enters, and the song gradually builds tension. Later, even more alien machine noises break in. The entire thing is very unsettling, and does a fantastic job of producing a mood.

All of a sudden, a strange guitar noise breaks in, and initiates "Dig Me", which I can honestly say is one of the scariest songs I've ever heard. The guitars howl and produce jarring, thudding noises pretending to be chords throughout each verse, while Belew speaks through some sort of vocoder in the persona of a broken-down car in a dump. It also does a good job of conveying its mood, but while "Industry" was an ambient, slowly building, almost march-like piece, "Dig Me" is just too jumbled--and to a certain extent too unnerving--for me to enjoy.

The same is true of "No Warning"--a free improv filled with wild drumming and more howling electronics. While small portions of it are interesting, there's no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever, and I find it impossible to enjoy because of that.

However, the album ends on a high note, with the delayed sequel "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part III". While this shows clear influence from the first II parts, particularly a stunning opening guitar flurry reminiscent of Part I followed immediately by harsh chords in the style of Part II, it quickly stakes out its own path with a steady, furious beat and two guitar parts playing off each other, which are interrupted by a jarring, halting section. And it continues shifting, through a subdued guitar duet into a slower section over which Fripp plays a roaring distorted solo. This is definitely the best track in the album; although it is not as cohesive as some of the other tracks, all of the individual parts are both energetic and complex, and it is overall freer than many of the tracks Krimson played in this era--which is a relief sometimes. The one big problem is that it ends on a fadeout--seriously, guys?

To summarize, this album, although not as outstanding as Discipline, does a good job of continuing and stretching the excellent style of 80's King Crimson, and I would highly recommend it. Highlights include Sleepless, Industry, and LTIA Part III.

Zargasheth | 4/5 |


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