Review Summary: Standard '70s CrimsonStarless and Bible Black
is an album to love and to not. A stereotypical classic era King Crimson album to the fullest extent, Starless…
contains the songs most expected by King Crimson. With straightforward rock tunes, King Crimson’s signature improvisations of the ‘70s, the lengthy progressive behemoth ‘Fracture,’ and not without a ballad found on nearly all Crimson albums, Starless…
is what we come to expect as listeners of King Crimson.
The first half of the album is mainly studio compositions, except for the improvisational ‘We’ll Let You Know,’ and fails to disappoint. Songs like ‘The Great Deceiver’ and ‘Lament’ serve a dose of hard rocking King Crimson, and the standout lyrics and vocal focus of ‘The Night Watch’ keep the album interesting, and not being interesting enough is the main fault of the second half of the album. Another element to drag in the listener straightaway are the initial lyrics of the album “health food faggot,” found on ‘The Great Deceiver’.
‘We’ll Let You Know,’ unlike the other improvisations on the album, is straight and to the point, not hesitating to get right into the actual song. ‘Trio’ is a calm ballad that never breaks cadence, and is a key part of the second half of Starless And Bible Black
, as well as the entire album. Although ‘Trio’ does not have much going on in the song, it is still attention grabbing with the questing violin of David Cross leading throughout and some interplay with Robert Fripp.
‘Fracture,’ the legendary King Crimson song, the centerpiece of Starless and Bible Black
, is an improvisational mixed bag which is slightly disappointing at first but yields a large reward when all is said and done. The style of starting calm then exploding, only to calm back down again and repeat the process until a final explosion is reached is a bit boring in the first section, which is the only downfall of the track, but the magnificence of the rest of the song makes up for it and more. Robert Fripp proclaims this song as the most difficult guitar work he ever played, and this element props up the second half of Starless…
, the half which suffers from monotony, and monotony is definitely absent from 'Fracture.'
‘The Mincer’ isn’t really a horrible song, but is a bit boring and monotonous throughout and just as it picks up and starts to get interesting, the song ends. The biggest disappointment on the album is easily the title track, which is just over nine minutes of nonsensical improvisation. ‘Starless and Bible Black’ is similar to ‘Providence’ from the Red
, except not nearly as good because it doesn’t go anywhere, and the buildup is hardly a feat, just a more intense and harsh guitar played without much melody at all, and some random percussion which intensifies as well throughout the song, that grows progressively less random as the song advances. Cross and his strings don’t really play a big part, and sort of just play a few notes in the background. The title track would be nearly unlistenable without the legitimate drum beats and bass play during the climax of the song.
Starless and Bible Black
is the worst of the Richard Palmer-James era King Crimson albums, but that by no means translates to it being bad, because the other two are fantastic. A few slight downfalls make the album an easy candidate for least likely to be listened to of the trio of albums, but songs like ‘Fracture’ and ‘The Night Watch’ increase the chances of giving this album a listen. Not an outcast among the classic era Crimson albums, Starless and Bible Black
contains everything loved about King Crimson, and also all the things that are not.