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Robert Fripp - Exposure CD (album) cover


Robert Fripp


Eclectic Prog

3.65 | 239 ratings

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3 stars Whiney Women and Sacred Songs

During my formative years at secondary school we coined an expression to denote all that we as 16year olds considered really 'out there' in terms of incomprehensible and ripe for the 'too hard' basket.

That's a bit Fripp and Eno mate we used to exclaim.

I think Robert Fripp was domiciled in New York at this time during a lengthy Crimson hiatus, and would have certainly had cause to meet and collaborate with many illustrious musicians from both the 'old' and 'new' waves. There are numerous instances of session work he undertook with, amongst others, the Roches, Blondie, the Stranglers, Darryl Hall, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie.

We must take care to remember that the musical landscape in 1979 was unrecognizable from what it is now and the influence of 'punk' in America was very different to that in the UK. In the latter, it was principally a social and political phenomenon while in the former it was principally an artistic and aesthetic phenomenon. There is very little common ground upon which the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and Chelsea could share with the likes of Richard Hell, the Heartbreakers and the Ramones.

'You Burn Me Up I'm a Cigarette' - I heard this on the radio before I bought the album and thought it was just another punk song from 1979. Give the lads some kudos here, this IS a real shock and the lyrics are Fripp's.

Musical elation is my only consolation

'Breathless' - Jazz rock garnished with a pungent Frippian seasoning which lends this otherwise rather perfunctory chop fest in weird time signatures its Crimsonesque flavour

'Disengage' - features the golden tonsils of one Peter Hamill who hollers with his usual gusto over a bludgeoning metallic dirge of no appreciable merit

'North Star' - This is more like it...Deceptively simple song beautifully sung by (Darryl Hall?) and featuring a variant of the 'chiming bell' guitar sound on the strummed chords (see Lament by King Crimson)

'Chicago' - Peter Hamill once more steps unto the breach to save the day, by transforming this relatively mundane blues plodder into something infinitely more surreal and sinister. Chilling. It ain't what you do etc

'Mary' - Decent enough tune but rather undermined by the very laboured 'faux naif' performance of (Terre Roche?) Whoever it is, I particularly loathe US female 'artists' who are this 'method school' precious about everything that comes out their mouths (Spleen anyone?)

'Exposure' - Fripp completely forgets his 'playful bunny' act for the first time here and seems to think it clever to spell out the name of the song beneath the irritating screeching of some deranged wench in the foreground who presumably must be 'exorcising her inner demons' (Buy them a bike love and give us peace)

'NY3' - This COULD have been very good indeed, as the idea of splicing some real life dialogue of a family arguing with their pregnant daughter onto the hypnotic and angular guitar provided by Robert SHOULD have resulted in an unsettling and unnerving poignancy. However, we are left with something that comes across as manipulative, exploitative and voyeuristic. I am sure this was not Fripp's intent but the track represents something of a missed opportunity. Shame.

I May Not have Had Enough of Me etc - Once more, Hamill shines but the chick he duets with sucks. (No, I am not misogynistic...its just that none of the females featured here contribute anything worthwhile to this record in my humble opinion)

'Here Comes the Flood' - Probably the highlight of the album for me. Peter Gabriel summons forth a very plaintive and achingly vulnerable performance of one of his most beautiful songs. The Frippertronics loop that Robert conjures up on this is particularly apt and gives the piece a haunting backdrop upon which Gabriel's lament is perfectly framed.

Fretmeister Fripp's debut solo outing tries just a little bit too hard to sneak itself into the 'too hard' basket for its own good. There is much to admire here but less to enjoy. The personnel employed are all very highly regarded in their own fields (even the 'precious' chicks) and the playing is faultless throughout.

But as we all know, great technique and reputations do not a great record make....

The bespectacled chipmunk fancies that his unremitting intellectualism will still hold firm even in the pursuit of 'fun' and 'play' which he asks us to consider as the ultimate aim of the more commercial approach adopted here on Exposure.

He protests too much.

Much of the unevenness of this record must have been caused by Fripp's failure to record his planned trilogy with Darryl Hall (an odd choice of collaborator to be sure) so it was probably inevitable that the truncated version we now have takes on the qualities of a rather disjointed compilation album.

Although my mind is not necessarily closed to the mystical teachings of Bennett and Gurdjieff, I find Fripp's patronage of a now redundant apocalyptic world view both smug and increasingly tiresome. He cannot resist splicing snippets of supposedly profound dialogue from supposedly wise men throughout the album, and the effect is that of a headmaster joining with the kids in laughing at the monkeys in the zoo (but all the while reciting the species Latin name and population statistics)

With the 20-20 hindsight of having listened to most (but not all) of Robert's subsequent solo excursions, I have to say that in spite of Exposure's many faults, it does represent his most stimulating and satisfying work in this field to date.

Frankly I find the 'soundscapes' less appealing than listening to someone vacuum their lounge and the work recorded with David Sylvian would induce catatonia in hummingbirds.

One day, real soon, Bob will unleash on us the solo album we know that he is more than capable of delivering.

Just don't bet on it involving carbon based lifeforms.

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |


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