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King Crimson - Beat CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.08 | 1237 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars

Beat is usually considered one of King Crimson's poppiest albums, but this is kind of a tricky distinction to make. Like the two it is sandwiched between, it has a mix of poppier songs and more experimental songs (well, I guess Discipline was more even, but Three of a Perfect Pair certainly had this mix.) There are a couple of songs on here that stand out as being a lot more accessible and catchy than their other numbers.

This wouldn't be a problem or anything, except that these tracks are kind of unremarkable. The more experimental stuff mostly continues in the vein of Discipline, and while there's often an unusual guitar sound or new rhythmic aspect thrown in to complicate matters, it doesn't do much to elevate Beat over its significantly superior predecessor

That being said, this album isn't bad. It's just has some good tracks, and some bad ones, and not a lot extra to say. It's actually pretty good, but it certainly isn't essential.

The opener, "Neal and Jack and Me", is a nice, frenetic, rhythmically complex guitar-fest in the style of "Discipline". It exchanges some of the interweaving for vocals, though, which are delivered in Adrian Belew's impeccable style, with ferocious energy. Overall the entire thing is more melodic, with some pretty catchy but still interestingly-delivered melodies. Near the end the guitars begin to sound a bit like bells chiming, which is a very pleasant effect. Quite a nice opening track--even better than the following album's (very similar) opener.

After this comes the quasi-title-track "Heartbeat"--certainly one of the poppiest songs King Crimson has ever done, and a concert favorite from the era. But to be honest, I find it somewhat unremarkable. It repeats with very little development, and the melody doesn't much stand out. The atmospheric guitar tones, however, are quite nice, and redeem the song to a certain extent.

This somewhat tepid track, however, is followed by one of the album's highlights, the instrumental "Sartori in Tangier". It mainly serves as a vehicle for a crazy guitar-synth solo from Fripp--but it's a good solo. And this isn't even the song's best feature--that credit would have to go to the song's great rhythm part, with a catchy, bouncy stick foundation and Bruford and Belew backing it up with their own interesting repeated parts. The song starts out as a driving, minor-key piece, then suddenly switches into a more ethereal portion where the rhythm section gets to show off a bit more, and then resumes the solo part. Overall quite well-constructed.

The first side closes with "Waiting Man", a lamenting song that opens with a simple but dense collection of layers (including nice use of electronic pitched percussion by Bruford) and Belew's melancholy vocal line. These layers metamorphose a few times until a second guitar joins in and adds yet another, producing a fascinating pattern that persists throughout the entire song. If any criticism could be leveled at this, it might be called a bit monotonous, but the hypnotic layering makes up for this, I'd say.

After this, the second side begins with the frenzied "Neurotica", which is for me another of the album's high points. After a crashing, noisy intro, Bruford continues drumming at an absurd pace while some basic chords are laid down and Belew begins rambling a bizarre, meaningless monologue meant to convey the feeling of being in a chaotic big city. Suddenly, the entire piece calms down to a typical interlacing pattern, but the calm combined with the vocals of the chorus still has a somewhat surreal quality, coupled with the chaos that precedes it. After this chorus is repeated twice, the energy again begins to build up until the monologue and madness returns, and the piece fades out. The atmosphere and mood of the song is vastly better than many other King Crimson pieces of this era, which don't do such a good job of communicating specific moods.

"Two Hands" is a kind of boring ballad--although not as repetitive as "Heartbeat" (and this is definitely a point in its favor), the instrumentation is sparse in what is otherwise a band of extreme density, and the song doesn't really go anywhere.

"The Howler" effectively picks up where the madness of "Neurotica" left off, and does well in its footsteps. It takes the standard interplay of the band, slows it down, and twists it in such a way that it sounds more demented and more menacing--almost like a swarm of angry bees trapped in a synthesizer. Again, it differentiates itself well from other Krimson songs of the time by altering the tone so. After a while, it calms down briefly, but it soon reasserts its craziness with a totally bizarre noisy solo. Overall, it doesn't hold up nearly as well as Neurotica, but it's still refreshingly weird. And the weird twangy noises at the beginning and end are AWESOME.

The last track, "Requiem", is a messy extended jam, with at least one guitar perpetually wailing throughout. I can't really see rhyme or reason in the way this ends up being put together--its only redeeming feature is some nice bass/stick work from Tony Levin closing the entire thing off. This is not this lineup's finest hour.

In general, I would say this album, although not uniformly good, has some very nice tracks on it which balance weirdness and catchiness excellently. I just wouldn't prioritize this over either of the adjacent albums. Highlights include "Neal and Jack and Me", "Sartori in Tangier", and "Neurotica".

Zargasheth | 3/5 |


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