King Crimson
Larks' Tongues in Aspic


4.5
superb

Review

by Henry Miller USER (21 Reviews)
February 24th, 2014 | 26 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ersatz shit?

Progressive rock is one of the most loathed genres by critics. It isn't difficult to see why; the cornerstones of the archetypal progressive rock song include longwinded, self indulgent instrumental passages, traditionally using a flute, perhaps a mellotron, and fluttering guitar work, occasionally supported by pompously enigmatic lyrics. Simply seeing the length of a track can make music critics cringe. King Crimson is a band that is definitely guilty of committing these typical prog crimes. Perhaps this is best proven by their debut album, with songs like "Moonchild," featuring an eight and a half minute free-form improvisational freak out from all members, and the grandiose opener "21st Century Schizoid Man," complete with a stuttering, disjointed midsection. While these elements led to people like Robert Christgau to call the album "ersatz shit," the album remains an innovative classic of the progressive rock genre.

Four albums later on Larks' Tongues In Aspic, King Crimson was a different entity, and not only because of additional members, but also in style. They had somewhat stepped away from the traditional progressive rock qualities of their debut that made critics' roll their eyes and instead took on experimental music as a main ingredient to the signature King Crimson sound. This is apparent from the first minute of the instrumental opener, Larks' Tongues In Aspic Pt. 1. The title track, much in the vein of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," is a multi-part song in which the first two bookend the album, yet unlike Floyd's epic, "Lark's Tongue In Aspic" spans multiple albums. The track begins with a gorgeously eerie and exotic percussive intro which showcases King Crimson's newfound experimental qualities, before slowly fading away into alternating sections of urgent violins and upbeat hard rock passages much in the vein of "21st Century Schizoid Man."Expertly technical percussion and wavering guitar leads are the basis of the midsection until minimalist violins again take over. The whole track flows surprisingly well despite its thirteen-plus minute length and the stark contrast of the different sections. None of it is boring, even if the violin passages are slow moving at times. It's a gargantuan song not only because of its length, but because of its alluring and unfamiliar qualities. There couldn't have been a better choice for the opener.

The three vocal tracks that follow are of similar high quality to the massive opener. The short piece that immediately follows, "Book Of Saturday," is much more subdued and laid-back, mirroring "I Talk To The Wind" on their debut. It's a pretty song without ever being truly beautiful, but it doesn't need to be shocking after following "Larks' Tongues Pt. 1." It's not at all underwhelming, just quieter and less prominent. "Exiles" is just as relaxed sounding as the previous track, yet lengthier and violin-tinged. Its intro does overstay its welcome a bit, but this can be forgiven because of the wonderful tranquility of the rest of the song. John Wetton's vocal performance can be a little off-putting; its scratchy qualities sometimes oppose the gentleness of its melody. "Easy Money" brings things up to tempo again with an intro with a colossal groove. The track is accentuated by goofy sound effects like a boinging sound, dings, and rumbling, which can be slightly distracting. The stellar instrumental midsection is the highlight; Robert Fripp's fuzz-filled guitar work is brilliant.

"The next track, Talking Drum," serves as somewhat of a return to "Lark's Tongue In Aspic Pt. 1." It's a bizarre instrumental track that slowly builds to driving drums, wailing violin and funky bass. While it's the weakest song on the album because of its oddness and its length, it shows once more that King Crimson can be highly original. Its's always nice to hear a band toy with their sound, even if the outcome isn't fantastic The closer, "Larks' Tongues In Aspic Pt. 2" is much more immediate than its first part, and about half the length. Still retaining the same experimental qualities such as exotic drums and violin, it works on a completely different level than the opener. It drives along at a consistent pace unlike the disjointedness of Pt. 1. It's completely satisfying as a closer and doesn't at all feel like just a midsection of a multipart epic.

Larks' Tongues In Aspic is highly successful for a number of reasons. King Crimson boldly incorporate experimental sounds and exotic instruments into their sound. The long instrumental pieces don't sound nearly as self-indulgent as they do on paper, instead sounding surprisingly economical for the mammoth size they truly are. Even though innovation does not at all make an album great, Larks' Tongues In Aspic is great as well as wildly innovative. While their debut was stronger overall, Larks' Tongues cemented King Crimson's status as one of the most inventive and consistently stellar progressive rock groups of all time.

Overall Rating: 4.4



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Comments:Add a Comment 
menawati
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2014


16060 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Difficult record to review. Just quickly skimmed and found :-

"typic prog crimes" typical
"free-from improvisational freak out" free-form
"led to people like Robert Christgau calling" to call
"multi-part song in which the first two bookend the album" parts ?
"John Welton" Wetton
"While its the" it's
also you got your tags wrong when you wrote Larks' Tongue




Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Ryus
February 24th 2014


3358 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

haha sorry, should have read it over once more

Digging: Grouper - Ruins

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2014


16060 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No need to be sorry, just trying to help.
Some people would actually probably prefer it to be 'free-from' improvisational freak-outs like you said hehe.

Ryus
February 24th 2014


3358 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah thanks : ] hahaha true

VheissuCrisis
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2014


1000 Comments


Good write up man it's not the easiest genre to talk about.

Having said that, watch out for sweeping generalisations like the one you make in your intro about critics - it's tempting to make a big statement to catch the readers attention (we're all guilty of it sometimes) but it comes across as too bold. After all, everyone on this site is a critic and most love this stuff.

Ryus
February 24th 2014


3358 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It was difficult to begin yeah, probably should have tried something different in hindsight cos I see what you're saying.
Thanks though : ]

YoYoMancuso
February 24th 2014


11173 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this album is one giant curveball being thrown at the listener. and it's awesome.

TWIGtheWONDERKID
February 24th 2014


859 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great summary--I haven't always appreciated this album but I've never thought of it as "Ersatz shit." I wonder what Robert Christgau thinks of it now, after all these years.

Digging: The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave

Ryus
February 24th 2014


3358 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

He actually called ITCOTCK ersatz shit, not this, I used it in the summer to highlight the differences that King Crimson have undergone since their debut

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2014


16060 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this or Red best KC

tommygun
February 24th 2014


24992 Comments


red easy

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2014


16060 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

aw tommy that 3 stings

Gwyn.
February 24th 2014


15161 Comments


all first 8 or so besides islands are all best red is just a lil bester than the rest

Friday13th
February 24th 2014


2578 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Red and ITCOTCK may be better, but Larks is more consistent. No "Moonchild" or "Providence" here.

Digging: iamthemorning - ~

Ryus
February 24th 2014


3358 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

agreed

tommygun
February 24th 2014


24992 Comments


3 means i like it though???

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2014


16060 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

fair enuff

tommygun
February 24th 2014


24992 Comments


sorry bud i just don't have prog in me blood like some of you lads, dig fripp's frippery though :]

most of the time

wacknizzle
February 24th 2014


13514 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

such an awesome album, nice review

awe tommy, you're killin me with that 3 bud

Digging: Nesseria - Fractures

Ryus
February 24th 2014


3358 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

average makes me happy



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