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Robert Fripp - God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners CD (album) cover


Robert Fripp

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4 stars I bought a copy of this album shortly after its release and for the first time in my young life as a record buyer I returned it straight after listening to the record shop to exchange it for another title. I was sixteen, into all things King Crimson (70s), Gabriel, Genesis, Yes etc. and just didn't get what I just heard. About ten years later, having enjoyed Crimsons 80s re-incarnation and expanding my listening habits with ambient and experimental music I found another copy, gave it a second try and lo and behold, now the whole frippertronics thing made sense. Side One consists purely of single guitar note loops, fading in and out of each other. There are no other 'gimmicks' to distract the listener and all the tracks were, to my knowledge recorded live. It is a mystical, almost religious listening experience, which could be compared to Paul Horn's superb recordings in the Taj Mahal. Side Two shows the other 'face' of frippertronics, recorded with the help of 'The League of Gentlemen' and a quite manic David Byrne on 'Under heavy Manners', who stutters all sorts of words ending in '-isms' on top of a carpet of a monoton guitars and drum rhythm. After a sudden halt and more melodic Byrne one-line solo the band continue on their own with the same repetitive motif. At first listening you will hardly notice the changes, but slowly the loops take over again and the rhythm section fades in what sounds like electronic waves crashing on an neon beach. This is hardly easy listening or prog for that matter, but it's still an essential purchase for Fripp/Crimson fans, as it predates and is wholly influential on both the Soundscape series and KC's Discipline/Beat/TOAPP releases. Unfortunately I believe that vinyl copies are hard to find and there is no CD re-release, apart from a chopped-up version on the 'Let the power fall' album. This title is far superior though.
Report this review (#27113)
Posted Monday, September 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars An album featuring one of Mr. Fripp's more notable soundscapes, marred by his singular vision of "Discotronics."

The first two glistening fields of sound pass pleasantly enough, but "1983" is the relevant and most enduring track on "God Save the Queen" and past this point you'll experience a drop in quality like no other - side B is basically occupied by two bouncing riff experiments, unfurnished by anything more than a rudimentary rhythm section and chattered over by David Byrne at perhaps his most irritating. A bit of a pothole on the road to 1981, it seems.

Report this review (#121784)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars As the 80s approached Robert Fripp found himself purposefully trying to distance himself from the grandiose music he had created in the early to mid-70s. Big progressive rock productions were passe and Fripp was trying to attach himself to the more cutting edge art-rock and new wave bands that were emerging in the late 70s. Minimalism was also a big influence during this period. Composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass were enjoying almost rock star status and pop artists such as Devo and Talking Heads were enjoying huge popularity with their minimalist influenced rock.

There was a lot of "buzz" surrounding this release even before it came out. In interviews Fripp hinted at a new lean and intelligent approach to rock that would take him into the brave new world of the 80s. When I first heard this record in 1980 I thought Robert had succeeded in combining Gamelan influenced minimalism with new wave rock and had created a blueprint for many bands to follow. Unfortunately, listening to this record again many years later I find it has not aged well. This record is a good example of the trap you set for yourself when you follow the newest trends too closely, your work ends up being too easily identified with the time period in which it came out.

Side one consists of three ambient instrumentals that feature Fripp's tape looped guitar recording technique known as Frippertronics. The first track, Red Two Scorer is nice enough, but things start to get boring soon after that. Without Eno around to help with production and "treatments", Fripp's guitar sounds stale after a while.

Side two consists of two rock songs that introduce Fripp's new 80s style. The basic idea behind these two songs is not bad, a simple rock beat overlaid with interlocking complicated guitar parts, but there are drawbacks to these songs that undermine the whole project. The first problem is the plodding rhythm section. Surely Fripp could have gotten better musicians, but I guess he thought these guys made him sound more "punk".

Another big problem is that there is no attention to sound texture or production. Music that is repetitive like this really needs some depth and color or it becomes boring quickly. In the hands of a team like Eno and Manzenera this same material would have been a lot more interesting. Finally, the bad icing on the bad cake is the voice of David Byrne on the song Under Heavy Manners. When this record was released Byrne was considered very nouveau hip and it certainly made Robert's record seem more relevant to have him on board. Unfortunately this would be another case of 'trying too hard to be hip' having a bad effect in the long run. They might as well have had Pee Wee Herman do the vocals because nothing says 80s like David Byrne, at the peak of his career, getting away with being totally full of himself and blabbering some pretentious fake madness with that "voice" of his. It has been a long time since anyone has encouraged him to be that self-indulgent.

Fripp tried too hard to be contemporary on this one, and ironically enough that is what makes it sound anachronistic today. It also doesn't help that the production is so flat and unimaginative, this album's blend of ambient and minimalistic styles could have really blossomed under the guidance of a skilled producer

Report this review (#160697)
Posted Sunday, February 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Now, how's this for a lark: Bobby "Chuckles" Fripp decided to give you, the consumer, a whole lotta bang for your buck. Rather than selling two EPs, he lowered costs and presented "God Save The Queen" and "Under Heavy Manners" on a single album. Brilliant economy, but what about the music? On one side, you're solely assaulted by the tape loop explorations that characterize the fine art of ambient Frippertronics. Brian Eno would be proud! On the other side, "applied Frippertronics" are used to cushion both rollicking rock rhythms and the -isms of Absalm el Habib.

Consider this a conceptual prelude to 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair.

Report this review (#287811)
Posted Monday, June 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars 2012-04-10 Robert Fripp - God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners Copy reviewed LP.

In Fripp's Drive To 1981 this 1980 album may represent the real building block upon which Disciplined, later to rename themselves King Crimson would be built upon. Fripp had developed his system of Frippertronics, playing guitar through one tape recorder, recording it and improvising against that recording to be recorded on another tape recorder. Probably his most successful and popular album was No Pussyfooting' (1973) recorded with Brian Eno. However this album ? effectively a compilation of two EPs sees further resurrection of Frippertonics on the first side, spacey bleeps and drones.

While the spacey technical approach would feature in Fripp's music thereafter it is Under Heavy Manners that really features the building blocks of King Crimson. The title track features the vocal input of Talking Head David Byrne, a contemporary colleague of Adrian Belew (yet to join Discipline.) The sound of the two has often been remarked as similar something to which Fripp probably saw to his advantage. Fripp wrote the lyrics of Under Heavy manners and the content and approach may form the nucleus of the new Crimson album called Discipline. E.g. 'Jurism, tourism, neologism, imperialism' could be later seen as the basis for Elephant Talk and the later Neurotica with its word play and manic delivery. It has a new wave / accented offbeat approach that is really primitive compared to later sophisticated arrangements. The Zero of The Signified is the track with rhythm. Fripp alludes and distances himself at once from the notion of "Discotronics" or "Roscotronics". One way or another the rhythmic aspect of the future King Crimson might have had it's genesis on this track. Perhaps Fripp's work with his project (1981) the League of Gentlemen may have had influence on his newer technical approaches to the nascent neo-Crimson. The track is dominated by bass guitar, drums and guitar with Frippertronics added. Really this could also be seen as a prelude to the near Crimson work undertaken with David Sylvian. Note Sylvian had recently emerged at this time with British punk art pop band Japan. The effect of this album is one of two distinct ideas that would receive later development, and frankly, improvement ? but one has to start somewhere. This is electronic experimental music with the emphasis on experiments as a process. The overall effect is that of transition as Fripp's Road to 1981 still had a few miles to travel. But the kernels of the new King Crimson are here. I've not seen this on CD yet and not sure it will happen. It's probably not a great album, essential for Fripp students, interesting for King Crimson (1981 ? 1984) students and okay for anyone else interested in experimental music that is in it's primitive way quite good. The most interesting feature of the so-called discotronics is the guitar arpeggios which are used as the basis for the early '80s King Crimson compositions. It is most certainly not funky as King Crimson were not particularly funky either, more complex driving over a simple rhythm (which would later be well developed by Bill Bruford).

The album features the beginnings of early '80s Crimson and a fair bit of Frippertronics as well as David Byrne providing the approach for vocals in the yet to form Discipline. Belew would however be so less annoying, managing to deliver his lyrics with melodic aplomb, something missing from Byrne's experimental approach.

Overall three stars. It's good, perhaps essential, to have if you are a Fripp / Crimson scholar but it is no substitute for the early '80s King Crimson, a good signpost for the road ahead.

Report this review (#720462)
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Underrated falls short. A masterpiece from A to Z. The year 1980, the mass arising of drum-box generated music was just to start. Of course most prog pioneers were well established by the time, but this was the future, and ike it or not, all the "Prog-Giants" surrendered to these new boxes and "new" tech/gadgets.

I can mention 1000s of horrible attempts by the Prog top-guns in these matters. These "giants" never knew exactly what to do with these synthetic boxes and the music sounds they generated, and sadly a lot of them still are there trying to figure it out, but their past works are my personal soundtrack, so I won't attack!

Anyway, to me Mr Fripp's "God Save the Queen / Under Heavy Manners" is his real first real solo effort, music wise, talking. Rather than his official first album "Exposure" which sounded more like his way of "exiling" himself away from the "Court of the Crimson King" musical idiom and crowds, like a " I do what I like and feel, and I don't care if you like it or not!" statement. But at the end of that same record we are given a clue to what was really cooking in Mr Fripp's upcoming musical language, the self named * "Frippertronics".

*(Frippertronics:Technically speaking the use of loops of pre-recorded and live recorded electric guitars, sometimes creating a droning experience, by repetition of single structured melodic lines) .

UNDER HEAVY MANNERS / GOD SAVE THE QUEEN! Track 1: A bridge between the first project (Exposure) and this one (including the Talking Heads' master "Head" screaming-singing like to whatever word that ends with -ism.

Track 2: Fast trance-dance pioneer, ( if not the first ), that dissolves slowly into the world of Frippertronics.

Track 3 to 6: Frippertronics presented into single compositions, as in his recent live street and public places presentations and performances. The mood each composition sets varies in proportion of balance, intensity or subtleness, all according to multiple, canon-like, melodic lines, constructed from scratch and multiplied by their own repetitions. This is the "King" himself, back in form, to explore this future and he delivered this gem. Imagine the electrifying droning of different guitar signals, sounding as only this genius could sound.

Somehow I've found out that die-hard "Crimsons" are the main detractors of this work. Just let yourself go, the music will do the rest.

*****5 PA stars without blinking.

P.D. : The original vinyl starts with "Under Heavy Manners" ends with "1983", so the next second record "Let the Power Fall" would start of properly with "1984" its first song.

Report this review (#886457)
Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Team
4 stars Inspired by Brian Eno during his work with him, Robert Fripp created a similar method of tape looping sound except he did it with guitar instead of electronics. He threaded reel to reel tape from the feeding real through the player of one unit through the player of a 2nd unit so that the tape would be taken up on the receiving reel on the 2nd unit. He would create a sound that he would layer more sounds over and do this continually so that he would become sort of like a one man band, or at least sound like he was creating more sound than what a single person would normally be able to create at one time. Thus Frippertronics was born. There were several versions of this Frippertronics method and two of them are featured on this double E.P. which was released as 1 LP.

"God Save the Queen" is the first part of this album and consists of 3 tracks. Each one is a study in minimalism, a layering of guitars improvised through the 2 reel to reel units. They are mostly sparse performances with a separate melody sometimes appearing among the guitar layers. This is Pure Frippertonics with nothing but Fripp's guitar and no other processed sound except for the tape units. The music is something like the ebb and flow of the waves and very relaxing. It is hard to understand on the first few listens, but really grows on you after a while. This style of guitar work would be used in a lot of recordings as part of the band, usually produced musically by Fripp as a guest performer and it always gave the music a much fuller sound with the payoff of fewer musicians.

The other half of the recording gives you 2 tracks that illustrates better how Frippertronics sounds with other instruments added in. This is the "Under Heavy Manners" part of the album. This style is what Fripp called Discotronics, the same recording process, but this time with an established rhythm (drums and whatnot) and bass with a few other surprises added in. This definitely gives a full sound to a smaller band. On the title track of this portion of the album, David Byrne sings what sounds like improvised words and melody and this sounds very much like the era it came from. The 2nd track on is over 12 minutes and further explores the full band sound this time without vocals. What's nice about this track is after about the half-way point, the other instruments end while the soundscape created by Fripp's guitar work is left to finish out the track, back to the bare bones of the first part of the album.

Overall, this is not an album for the masses, but it is proof of Fripp's genius and shows his inventiveness in attempting to move the guitar sound into the 80's. The interesting thing here is that bands are still using his techniques and styles today, however, with more updated equipment which produces more interesting sounds. But the technique is still there, the idea is still utilized and with this album, which, even though it isn't exactly a masterpiece, should be something that gets a lot more credit as far as the progression of modern music. No it's not for everyone, but any student of music should be exposed to it and credit is due to Fripp for his experimentation and innovation which has created a lot of the sound that we hear today in music, whether it's pop music or the most innovative progressive music. Not everyone will enjoy both halves of this album, but it still needs to be appreciated. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1395757)
Posted Wednesday, April 8, 2015 | Review Permalink

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