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King Crimson - Beat CD (album) cover

BEAT

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.08 | 1216 ratings

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Lewian
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Beat is the second of the early eighties KC trilogy of Discipline-Beat-Three of a Perfect Pair with Fripp on guitar and a tiny little bit of organ, Belews on guitar and vocals, Levin on bass and stick and Bruford on drums. Roughly the style is the same as on the two surrounding albums, very guitar oriented, sharp between Fripp's clean cascading sequences and Belew's howling roaring style. Bruford's drumming and the whole production are very sharp and precise as well; the absence of keyboards most of the time has taken the smoothness out and the aesthetic is rather on the leaner early 80s new wave side than proggish grandeur. Particularly Belew's singing gives the music a very worldly edge; his spontaneity and raw emotionality also provides a fascinating contrast to the precision and perfection on the instrumental side. Levin's playing is quite percussive at times,providing a solid rock element, and also, on the stick, he sometimes adds to the fine woven guitar structures. At the same time the music is very complex and multi-layered, and actually, despite being very recognisable as in the middle of the early 80s style of the group, the album also showcases the group's versatility.

As I'm writing this, Beat is the lowest rated of all King Crimson albums and stands accused of being "too poppy and commercial" in more than a handful of reviews. I don't know whether anybody ever tried to play "Neurotica" or "Requiem" to an average pop listener, but I'd certainly consider trying pretty much the whole catalog of Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd combined to be a safer option if you don't want to risk them destroying your speakers with an axe.

That said, Beat has its catchy moments that could be played on the radio and liked by the normal guy on the streets (booh!). Heartbeat is a straight, fairly simple and emotional love song, which due to Belew's singing, the down-to-earth sound and the competence of the musicians gives you the emotions sugar-free, that is, you don't need to feel guilty if you love this (as I do). Similar things could be said of Two Hands, which is calmer and ballad-like and in fact a bit smoother and mellower (so there's some calories in this one actually) but delivers some very nice guitar work to make up for this. The other song that has a somewhat smoother feel than the rest of the album is Waiting Man, which features Fripp's typical guitar polyrhythms, and where Bruford plays some less sharp percussions and the drums only come in very late.

The Howler and Neil and Jack and Me are twisted rock songs with some similarities to Frame by Frame on Discipline. I didn't like Neil and Jack and Me much when I heard it first time but it has grown on me over time, as it evokes very convincingly a somewhat nervous feeling of disconnectedness from home. It also connects the great musicmanship of top prog music with the edginess of early 80s new wave in a good way.

Sartori in Tangier is a straight driving and very dynamic instrumental that showcases the abilities of the instrumentalists, with one of the best dynamic moments of all time when Bruford's spectacular drum rolls end the calmer interplay in the middle before going back to the sharp main theme of the song after about 3/4 of the time.

Neurotica and Requiem are the most noisy, atonal and experimental songs. Neurotica still is a conventional song, but it features stark contrasts, sudden changes between breathless jazzy and straighter but polyrhythmic rock parts, and Belew almost rapping at times. Requiem is a rather free instrumental which starts off in a fairly relaxed manner before slowly evolving into something more noisy and intense.

I started off writing this thinking that I'd give it 4 stars because, you know, Discipline came first so it has to be the really essential masterpiece of the trilogy. But listening and thinking about it while writing I realised that the musical world opened by Discipline still, even at this time, has so much unexplored space that for Beat as the second album populating it there was still plenty of room for innovation. Overall the approach taken by the band in this trilogy is so strong, with every single song on Beat still having something new and fresh and interesting to offer, that I'll settle for nothing less than 5 stars here.

Lewian | 5/5 |

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