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King Crimson - Discipline CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.11 | 1864 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars First of all, a word of warning to all KC newcomers: this album has very little (if any) connection to the band's '69 masterpiece, the legendary "In the Court of the Crimson King", which reputedly marked the official birth of the symphonic prog era. The only thing those two records - separated by 12 years - have in common is the presence of KC's mastermind (or just plain 'master'?), groundbreaking guitarist Robert Fripp. As to the rest... no mellotrons or other such keyboards, no majestic vocal performances, no visionary lyrics. Just a rythm section to die for, two gifted guitarists that try to outdo each other at every opportunity, an incredibly expressive vocalist with an endearingly lazy American twang, and oodles of intriguing ethnic influences - notably Javanese gamelan music.

On the other hand, it would not be entirely correct to say that "Discipline" has absolutely no roots in KC's '70s production. Indeed, I would dare say that it takes up where "Lark's Tongue in Aspic" left off - there's more than a touch of Jamie Muir's crazy percussive brilliance in Bruford's performance on this album. As a matter of fact, I think Muir would have felt completely at home on this record, especially on the exotically atmospheric masterpiece that is "The Sheltering Sky".

One extremely clear influence on "Discipline", particularly on the vocal tracks, is that of celebrated New Wave band Talking Heads, easily one of the most 'progressive' (in the true sense of the word) representatives of that so-called, post-punk movement. It's no wonder, seen as guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew collaborated for some time with TH before being invited by Fripp to join the new incarnation of KC. Belew's manic, emotionally-charged vocal delivery is noticeably influenced by David Byrne's, although I have to say that Belew is vastly superior as a vocalist. Needless to say, his style is many miles removed from Greg Lake's smooth, quintessentially English tones, or John Wetton's rawer yet powerful delivery: his vocals may be an acquired taste, but they are much better than they're usually given credit for - and, most important of all, they suit the music perfectly.

It must be pointed out, however, that the tracks which feature more or less traditional singing amount to only half of the album. As a matter of fact, the true strength of "Discipline" lies in its magnificent instrumental tracks: the tense, electrical storm of "Indiscipline", slashed by almost violent guitar flurries and featuring a slightly disturbing recording of Belew's voice repeating "I repeat myself when under stress"; the ambient-influenced, African-tinged mood piece of "The Sheltering Sky" (inspired by Paul Bowles' novel of the same title, like The Police's "Tea in the Sahara"), which provides a welcome respite from the overall intensity of the album; and the title-track, which rounds things off in style with Fripp and Belew's duelling guitars weaving in and out of Bruford's and Chapman stick master Tony Levin's thunderous, intricate rhythmic background.

Of the tracks featuring vocals, my least favourite is the atmospheric, laid-back ballad "Matte Kudasai", an alternative version of which is provided as a bonus track. It's not a bad song by any means, showing Belew's softer side as a vocalist: it's just that it feels somewhat out of place among the other, more exciting and innovative tracks. On the contrary, opener "Elephant Talk", spiked by all sorts of weird noises (courtesy of Belew's notorious "elephant guitar"), a real vocal tour de force, with Belew half-singing, half-reciting his whimsical lyrics, sets immediately the scene, making it clear what the new KC are all about. Much in the same vein are the following "Frame by Frame", dynamic though not as frantic; and the funky, percussion-driven "Thela Hun Ginjeet", featuring a recording of Belew's spoken narration of his narrow escape from muggers in NYC.

KC have always been quite famous for their stunning cover art. "Discipline" is no exception, though - just like the musical content of the album - the cover is much more minimalistic and streamlined than the baroque masterpieces that were ITCOTCK and "Lizard". Incidentally, the background colour is that shade of dark red commonly known as crimson, framing a spectacularly intricate Celtic knot. Deceptively simple, extremely stylish, just like the album it contains. However, don't be mistaken into thinking that "Discipline" might be a triumph of style over substance: although it may not everyone's cup of tea, it is a truly progressive album, one of the real masterpieces of any subgenre. Essential.

Raff | 5/5 |


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