Review Summary: King Crimson strikes back, this time, with a new lineup.
Most King Crimson fans heard In the Court of the Crimson King, and liked it. Even so, the legendary debut wouldn’t prepare him for what would happen next. After Islands, it looked as if King Crimson was almost shipwrecked. But, that was only the first generation. Often times, it has been told that the band has a life of its own.
"King Crimson has a life of its own. It is a creative identity quite apart from the musicians who comprise it."
And so, a new identity of King Crimson came into being. A being that is highly complicated and developed a new sense of talent and a new norm for progressive rock, a new type of King Crimson, which made a stunning studio return with Larks' Tongues in Aspic.
The big deal behind Larks' Tongues is that they transform their old darker, prophetic visionary songs into highly improvised, cerebral, and mind bending passages, the latter of which either impressed Crimson fans or scared them. The greatest example is Larks Tongues in Aspic Part One, which deeply delves into some the newest styles that Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, Jamie Muir, and David Cross explored and found. These new, highly mind bending styles are especially felt in the midpoint of the song. The beginning is essentially a three minute percussion passage, starting with bells, then violin following by a whole slew of other percussion instruments. Another new concept in this album is time signature changes. The first signs once again occure in Part One both at the five minute mark and the seven minute mark. Along with that, there is a high suggestive use of violin in Larks' Tongues Part One, Part Two, and pretty much everything else. After hearing the midpoint of the Larks' Tongues Part One, the escalating intensity comes to a halt. The calamity and the exotic feel of the rest of the song bring another new concept into the 2nd gen King Crimson would use throughout the album, which would pave the way for more possibilities. The overall feel of Larks' Tongues Part One was an accidental experiment gone very well and finished right off the top.
The second track, Book of Saturday is mellow, almost classy KC song that usually does make a plausible experience. This also introduces the new vocalist, John Wetton, yet another new concept from Greg Lake, Gordon Haskell, and Boz Burrell. What makes his new voice a special one is the newer; more hard rock toned sound that he builds for the newly developed group. In this case, his voice and tone are mellowed out in this song. Also take notice again to David Cross and the violin. This not only is a new concept, but also becomes a future foundation for future albums, such as Starless and Bible Black, Red, and USA. The mellow aspects of Book of Saturday transfer very well into another good song, Exiles.
The song, Exiles, is the returning concept of darker songs and darker stories, something King Crimson specializes in. It creates a traditional, airier feel for listeners who can’t seem to escape the classic KC age. The only new foundation, violins, is most present in this song. Not to mention, the use is also used very appropriately in this tune. For one thing, Robert Fripp does an excellent job with the guitar in this song and in the whole album because it’s more present whereas the older albums such as In the Court of the Crimson King are highly dominated by mellotrons and perhaps almost overdone. And it’s the use of traditional, dark music that still keeps them popular throughout the ages.
A more modern, less traditional Easy Money focuses some of the new styles of rock together on a single song. A few noticeable examples include the sounds of clinking glasses, pouring of liquids, and such noises that can be heard in a club or a bar. However, while it doesn’t lack creativity, it doesn’t also lack a bit of pretentiousness either. The same could be said about The Talking Drum. However, it starts out mysterious and quiet. As the song progresses, evidence that the song will sound similar to The Devil’s Triangle becomes more obvious. However, this song, though it is pretentious, is much less pretentious than The Devil’s Triangle itself. The creativity is still pretty high, but it is also undeniably outrageous and upsetting.
In the end, Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part Two makes up for most of it. While it is erratic and crazed sounding, it is also highly complex, creative, and even catchy. The complexity is very much noticeable through the constant time signature changes, which would become more popular in Fracture from Starless and Bible Black, Metropolis Part One from Dream Theater’s Images and Words, and the Dance of Eternity. Once again, the selection of instruments and percussion selections made by Fripp, Cross, Muir, and Bruford is not to mention complementary, but also sophisticated, and spontaneous. This creates one of King Crimson’s most unique pieces. It also gives the band a new style to continuously work with the next few years.
Often times, Larks' Tongues in Aspic is not much more than an experiment. But it was an experiment done right. For one thing, this album helped King Crimson lead the way the climb to top of Prog Rock’s mountain again. It also helped develop a new style that was unique to them. To put it lightly, this was the great return of a popular progressive rock giant.