King Crimson
Larks' Tongues in Aspic


4.5
superb

Review

by ValiumMan USER (17 Reviews)
July 22nd, 2007 | 494 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist

Review Summary: LTIA still stands as a daring, experimental effort, a step in a bold new direction and, ultimately, the album that saved King Crimson from becoming an anachronism like so many other classic 70's prog bands.

Though frequently credited with “inventing” the genre, King Crimson never fitted into most of the common progressive rock clichés. No cheesy concept albums, no sci-fi escapism, not too much overblown soloing, no horrible “rock” renditions of Pictures At An Exhibition (*coughcough*). In fact, starting with guitarist/mellotron player/leader Robert Fripp’s first from-scratch lineup rebuild in 1973, they turned into an increasingly strange beast, marrying brain-melting heavy rock to European-free-jazz-esque playing disciplines and souping it up with plenty of exotic influences and instruments. In retrospect, the Larks’ Tongues In Aspic album, released that same year, established them as one of the most idiosyncratic rock formations of all time, abandoning the commercial platinum mine their peers were stuck in for artistic integrity and relentless experimentation and ultimately saved them from becoming an anachronism like so many old-school prog bands.

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic isn’t an accessible album and it makes you know right from the start. The opening (instrumental) title track’s quiet, exotic-sounding intro, played entirely by new percussionist Jamie Muir (an associate of improv guitar legend Derek Bailey) on African thumb pianos and sheet metal lulls the listener in and then, all of a sudden gives way to an eerie bridge of violin (bowman David Cross was a full-time member of the band then) and bass, before Robert Fripp kicks in with a nastily loud, distorted guitar riff that makes Tony Iommi look like a sissy. The rest of the song is no less scary, herking and jerking between what sounds like a metal version of Mahavishnu Orchestra, with Fripp’s jolting guitar aided by ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford’s percussive clatter, John Wetton’s loud, funky bass and Jamie Muir banging on everything that’s currently around (including your mama), a long (and boring) violin solo and strange, unintelligible voices. To me, it sounds like a musical version of twisted, disturbing dream logic. Or just a bunch of guys playing whatever they currently feel like? Or a mix of both? It’s absolutely daring and downright great (‘cept for that violin solo) either way.

Unfortunately, the following three “vocal numbers” are nowhere near as gorgeous, Book Of Saturday being the best of them. A two-minute pop(!) song about the unfaithful lover you just can’t let go, driven by David Cross’s beautiful violin, complete with two backwards solos and John Wetton’s (another bassist/singer!) sweet voice. Even if it sounds unlikely, it really does work! Exiles, however, is a real stinker, a pale, sugary version of KC’s Court Of The Crimson King era mellotron balladry. Wetton tries to sound “dramatic” but miserably fails and has trouble hitting some of the higher notes. The odd, chaotic instrumental interludes are the only redeeming quality. Easy Money is a cool, funky rocker that trips over its own ludicrous lyrics (written by new writing-only member of the band, Richard Palmer-James). A terribly failed attempt at a “satire” of modern commercialism accompanied by “sound effects” to make things even more embarrassing. Example: “You could never tell a winner from a snake” (*hiss noise*). The improvised, instrumental middle section is pretty sweet (and long) though, so it ain’t really all that detracting.

But however solid the “songs” may be, the instrumentals are the real meat here. The new KC just look (or rather sound) a lot better as weird avantgarde-improv rockers than as a conventional 70’s rock group. Hence, the two closing tracks are pure gold. The Talking Drum takes a central rhythmic motif and wraps eastern-tinged violin and rumbling guitar around it, krautrock style. The track gets increasingly louder and more tumultuous halts before Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part 2, which seems completely unrelated to the first part, but is a jazzoid, repetitive, technical heavy rock, with Fripp’s nasty, angry guitar colliding with a madly screeching violin and clamoring free-form percussion, dissolving into a total chaos.

An appropriate ending for a weird, disorienting, engrossing and just downright great album that stands a singular achievement in the development of what would later be referred to as “avantgarde rock”. (On a side note, Japanese noise artist Merzbow cites these guys as influence).



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ValiumMan
July 22nd 2007


493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I found this album to be really hard to approach review-wise. I had to start over like 3 times and this is the version I'm most satisfied with. Hope it turned out well.
Also, I was hesitating to give this a 4.5, but the instrumentals really make up anything that may be bad about the vocal numbers.

EDIT: I just realized the guy put this (and presumably wrote the first review) was too dumb to spell the title right. Could some mod fix that please? Thnx in advance.This Message Edited On 07.22.07

Tyler
Emeritus
July 22nd 2007


7926 Comments


i have this but i havent actually ever listened to it.

ValiumMan
July 22nd 2007


493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's really rewarding if you give it a few shots, trust me.

Kage
July 22nd 2007


1172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Tyler, you disappoint me.

By the way, damn you for dissing Easy Money in any way. It's probably the most perfect song ever written. The lyrics are absurd and amazing.This Message Edited On 07.22.07

FriendofTheDevil70
July 22nd 2007


384 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like this album a lot, but I don't think it warrants a 4.5. Nonetheless great review.

pulseczar
July 22nd 2007


2385 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Crimson's best album. I also think this is one of their most influential albums, near Red, In the Court, and Discipline.This Message Edited On 07.22.07

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2007


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The 3 albums you mentioned are all better than this though. After Lizard and those though I have to say this is probably their best. Another amazing album by KC.

Zebra
Moderator
July 23rd 2007


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I usually don't go for this type of stuff but King Crimson are able to pull it off with this album. I find this a lot more interesting and engaging then In the Court... which is often hailed as their best.

Kage
July 23rd 2007


1172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Court of the Crimson King is far from their best, and it is only often hailed as such by people who've only heard that and no other Crimson.

any14doomsday
August 8th 2007


679 Comments


Its a battle between this and red for me as the best Crimson album. The title tracks are amazing, They are so heavy! and easy money is the shit man, your crazy.

I thought your review was really good though.

Id like to hear a Merzbow and Crimson collaboration.This Message Edited On 08.08.07

Abaddon2005
September 8th 2007


684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's pretty weird how Fripp managed to find vocalists who are also good bassists twice.. maybe even three times.

Unreal
October 6th 2007


229 Comments


this is an amazing album

Neoteric
October 21st 2007


3243 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, this album is quite excellent.

Shrapnel94
September 20th 2008


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Title tracks are my all time two favorite KC songs.

lauriej
May 11th 2009


1712 Comments


hey Jethro i checked out Bill Bruford's "One of a Kind" album and it rules. Brilliant jazz fusion with progressive touches.

I need this album and Lizard and Discipline.

joshuatree
Emeritus
June 7th 2009


3742 Comments


this is probably my favorite crimson

MeatSalad
May 3rd 2010


14900 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Easily their second best.

Digging: The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site

TronaldDump
June 25th 2010


492 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Can anybody tell by my avatar that this is my favorite King Crimson album? Truly extraordinary material.

Maniac!
September 15th 2010


26257 Comments


OMFG this is so good. How did I live only listening to ITCOTCK and Red?

Maniac!
September 15th 2010


26257 Comments


Somebody help me give this love



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