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also by King Crimson:
King Crimson surprised many on their return in the 1990s by, well, sounding like King Crimson. Known for reinventions, they seem here to have settled on just picking the styles they're known to be good at, and just going for it. And that'll do me nicely, thank you Fripp and friends. With the UPPERCASE TITLES I had expected a dominance of frenetic twiddlery, like the clockwork twin guitar sound they used in the 1980s. Instead, the instrumental pieces like "VROOOM" and "THRAK" are heavy grinds more reminiscent of the "Red" era. "Dinosaur" is a catchy song by Belew about a mid-life crisis, based on that grinding sound. One distinctive gimmick is the pairing of two trios of guitar, bass and drums, which are used for striking spatial effect, clearly separated in the stereo mix. The two drummers (Pat Mastelotto and Bill Bruford) are given chance to show off their time-signature tweaking cleverness on the entertaining "B'Boom".
Other reminders of past successes include the two "Radio" pieces, short snatches of ambient sound like on Fripp's "Exposure" album. And occasionally there's some synth noodling that sounds suspiciously like Mellotron. The surprising strength here, amidst the aggressive rock, is Adrian Belew's voice. It's mellowed over the years into a soft tenor with a piercing clarity. Those who wanted another "Matte Kudasai" will be pleased by some of the songs here. Together with the echoing guitar, Belew makes the spine tingle on ballads like "Walking on Air", the brief "Inner Garden" pieces and especially "One Time". There's also a taste of upbeat "Three of a Perfect Pair"-era pop on "People" and the funky "Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream".
As the 1990s proceeded, the various members of King Crimson would seem to go on a workaholic splurge into more experimental directions, which I should go on to investigate. But in the meantime this is an entertaining summing-up of what they are all about - almost like a greatest hits album full of entirely new material.
October 13, 2004