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King Crimson - Discipline CD (album) cover

DISCIPLINE

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.11 | 1810 ratings

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rogerthat
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Before I get to the review proper, I have to get some background info out of the way. Discipline may have been a rebirth of the King Crimson vehicle which Robert Fripp had seemingly abandoned for good in 1974 (ha!) but it is no ITCOTCK-esque revolution. Bill Bruford once said that you can hear the future of music on a King Crimson album, but on Discipline you can hear its immediate past. Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, most notably. I don't think the fact that Fripp also contributed guitar solos to Talking Heads makes it his work instead of theirs and to that extent, the sometimes hyperbolic claims made about the originality of this album seem hard to relate to.

With that told, I have to say that Discipline is still an incredible exhibition of musicianship presented in infectious and palatable slices of new wave/rock. When Fripp called time on King Crimson and heavily criticized the 70s rock scene, which he felt was excessive, he had also advocated the "small, smart, self-sufficient, mobile unit". And you cannot say about Fripp that he didn't/doesn't walk the talk - at least not in this connection. Small, smart units of prog is exactly what we get on Discipline. It took 7 years and the introduction of two new musicians in the lineup, but Fripp lived up to his boast.

And not only is Discipline small and smart in its approach, it also overflows with contagious energy of the kind that was sorely missing in prog by the end of the 70s. Where Dave Stewart apparently chose to blast the emergence of supposedly illiterate musicians riding on the 'lack' of talent, Fripp & co deliver to listeners what they had perhaps been missing in the interim.

This is not music that requires a quiet room and high powers of concentration to focus on and appreciate. It leaps out of the stereo and grabs you by the collar, wasting no time in getting across its point. The new wave-ish stylistic orientation masks the astounding level of musicianship on this album. This is a hard enough set of songs to play without having to emulate the energy with which the musicians project it. Thela Hun Gunjeet is on a King Crimson album? You've got to be kidding me. Its riffs hook you in a matter of seconds in ways unthinkable of the earlier avatar of King Crimson.

Even though Discipline is largely a tightly composed affair with next to no room for improvised sections, it doesn't feel like it at all. King Crimson's previous attempts to marry composition with improvisation, incredible as they were, had a studied and calculated air about it. Discipline has an intrinsic spontaneity about it and is a bit silly and quirky, at least by King Crimson standards.

A good measure of credit, or blame depending on the way you see it, for this new found quirk must go to singer and guitarist Adrian Belew. Previous King Crimson vocalists like Lake and Wetton sang the lines relatively neatly with their powerful voices without much by way of a distinct style or trait. Belew's style of singing on the other hand is very distinct, even if it might not be everyone's cup of tea, and lends the album an unique character (not unlike the way Byrne does to Talking Heads).

A minor gripe I have is the album seems to find its magic formula early on and sticks to it to the point where it overstays its welcome a wee bit. Also, the two attempts to break out of the formula, Matte Kudasai and Sheltering Sky, produce mixed results. I think Sheltering Sky might have fared a bit better with me had the tones been a little more to my liking. Matte Kudasai is kind of overwrought and cheesy but not particularly bad and it will pass.

That aside, there's not much more to find fault with in this remarkable effort by an outstanding incarnation of King Crimson. It seems almost too much like stating the obvious to say that it is one of the essentials of 80s music.

rogerthat | 5/5 |

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