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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.28 | 1192 ratings

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3 stars I must be an even odder person than I thought, since, unlike most people, I think Three of a Perfect Pair is inferior to its vastly underrated predecessor, Beat. Now, when talking about King Crimson, 'inferior' does not in any way imply 'bad' - Fripp's crew have never released anything less than adequate, and are to be commended for the consistent high quality of their output. However, as in all things human, it is impossible to achieve complete perfection every time, so the band's back catalogue inevitably contains its share of weaker efforts. This album, the third instalment of KC's Eighties trilogy, falls into the latter category: good in comparison with some of the dross the former Seventies prog glories produced in their decline, but by no means showing the band at their best.

While Beat largely paralleled the structure of the stunning Discipline, Three of a Perfect Pair is neatly divided in two parts, the 'left side' and the 'right side' (with a number of bonus tracks labelled as 'the other side') - a device, of course, already used by other bands. The 'left side' comprises four songs plus an instrumental, the 'right' four instrumentals. As a whole, the songs are less impressive than the ones on either Discipline or Beat, though making the most of Adrian Belew's unique vocal style. The exception is Sleepless, a song that most hardcore proggers will surely hate because of its funky, danceable beat (it was in fact also released as a dance mix). Being reasonably open-minded, I do not hate 'dance music' as such - just when it is bad (which unfortunately happens all too often). Moreover, Sleepless has a killer bass intro, and Levin's performance throughout the song is textbook-perfect. On the 'other side' three alternative versions are featured, including the notorious dance mix.

As I said before, the other songs, while not bad, are definitely not as interesting - and not because they are 'poppy' (which they are). On the other hand, the instrumentals (one of the band's strongest points since their inception) should have a stronger appeal to long-time KC fans. The atmospheric Nuages, which closes the 'left' side', reprises the ambient-like mood of the marvellous The Sheltering Sky (notice the common theme) on Discipline. However, the only really standout track here is the dark, brooding Industry, basically a continuation of Nuages in the vein of the band's most experimental offerings, like Providence. The heavy, distorted Dig Me, in the style of Indiscipline and Neurotica, does feature some very creepy vocals (and lyrics... Dig me, but don't bury me!); while Larks' Tongues in Aspic III, though perfectly competent, does not really resemble its majestic predecessors of the Seventies, or even the fourth part included in 2003's The Power to Believe.

On the whole, I think Three of a Perfect Pair reflects the definition of a three-star rating: good, but not essential. Personally, I believe it was a good move for Fripp to dissolve the band after this album, because all the signs pointed to a formula that was in danger of becoming stale. Obviously, if you are a fan of the band like I am, you will find it essential to own it in order to get the complete picture, and I think there are far worse albums you could spend your hard-earned cash on. Just don't expect to be bowled over..

Raff | 3/5 |


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