King Crimson
Three of a Perfect Pair



by Kage USER (30 Reviews)
October 30th, 2006 | 75 replies

Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An experimental and extraordinarly unique album that brings 80s contemporary influences into the mix, while also staying true to King Crimson's legacy of unforgiving vision. Still, unlike most King Crimson before it, it is not unwilling to have some fun.

Three of Perfect Pair is an ode to all things harmonious. On the cover, a nice, symmetrical pattern of complimentary yellows and blues, and on the back a track listing seemingly lacking the oft-perceived pretentiousness of fire witches and castles with evil entities dwelling in the court.

Now, anyone who has heard King Crimson’s preceding material from the late 60s and 70s would agree that harmonious is not exactly the word to describe the band. From the screeching saxophone and guitar jams of the Schizoid Man to Red’s sinister cry of dissonance to the disorienting metric modulations of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, the tritone was the Crimson King’s best envoy, sent through the fingers of Robert Fripp to be paraded over backbeats of manic jazz and surreal string orchestras, shrieking violins and honky tonk pianos dancing around the augmented scale.

As King Crimson’s latest fades in on an airy enigmatic vocal chord, we’re prepared for the worst. Throw it all at us, everything you’ve got! We’ve seen it all before! We’re not scared of your violent outbursts, we’re no longer intimidated by your dissonant soundscapes, and all the shifting polyrhythms in the world could not throw us off balance. The march of lizards and demented brass cannot trample us. No twisted tales of schizophrenia can haunt is in our dreams anymore!

And then, a curveball. The rhythms don’t trip, but bounce. The guitars lock in to one another rather than teetering on the edge of falling apart, barely grasping onto a beat so unsteady that it could crumble at any moment. Molten lava does not flow out of the cracks of this…this…pop song? Our shrieks subside as frontman and guitar wizard Adrian Belew’s vocal hooks melt over us. What is going on here?

The following tune, Model Man might be an eighties new wave ballad if I didn’t know any better. Psh. It’s lovely, emotional, it bounces as if on the moon, it takes us away.

Still, something is not right. This is not Pat Benatar. We don’t feel young, we don’t feel strong. Something is wading in the undercurrents of this album. The guitars are stable, but they seem to create a web, interlocking into one another against the snakelike rhythms of Tony Levin’s Chapman stick. They’re trapping us in like a fly in a spider’s web. The groove is undeniable, but the harmonies of the two guitars are unsettling…they shouldn’t work but they do. This isn’t just your average pop tune, King Crimson is messing with us. Belew’s vocals are catchy, but troubling in the most uncertain way.

Nuages brings with it a shift. Building off a skeletal beat with electronic pads from Bruford’s arsenal and some Frippertronic (a delay system developed by Robert Fripp) noises, it gradually builds into a darkly ambient, floating piece with odd guitar solos from Belew. Rising in tension, it is an ominous foreshadowing that the best has passed…we’re in for a rough ride now.

Industry rolls in slowly. Frippertronics take center stage over a barreling low end from Levin and Bruford’s shifting rhythm. More modal experimentation, with outbursts from the rhythm section that seem uncertain, sudden, jarring. A distorted guitar fades in threateningly, moving inside and out of the pounding rhythms, now completely maniacal. The piece builds and builds, slowly, but soon all tentativeness is lost. It is marching right out of the speakers at us, coming for us. Soon even the guitars begin to hide in the shadow, screeching and sliding away from the madness.

Dig Me hearkens to days of yore, with a whacked out guitar rhythm and a rhythm section that sounds like it’s just struggling to keep up, with metric and modal shifts uncertainly off-center with one another, a disturbed vocal melody that swings in all the chaos, a song on the verge of falling apart completely.

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part III closes the album well, opening with frenetic Frippian guitar work and moving into an updated interpretation of the old theme from the classic 70s album of the same name, Bruford’s rhythms feel at home in this twisting instrumental, menacing in the right ways but more willing to have fun than the previous versions. More interlocking guitars create off-balance harmonies. Still, it’s just not quite as powerful as the 70s conceptions.

I’ve learned never to judge a book by its cover—nor by the first few pages, for that matter. Three of a Perfect Pair, while a far cry from the style of previous Crimson outings (after all, it does trade out the winds, mellotrons, and pianos for another guitarist), is nothing less than a beast of an album, filled to the brim with unorthodox experimentation that we expect from the Frankenstein that is King Crimson. At times we feel that the band is out of the members’ control, that they are merely puppets to the whim of the Crimson King entity—whoever or whatever it is. On the other hand, it is album that is not unwilling to open up and just have some fun—something Belew brought to the band, and in turn an exciting new energy that would propel King Crimson well into future generations.

Recent reviews by this author
Ra Black SunProjeKct X Heaven and Earth
Andrew Hill Compulsion!!!!!The Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath
Queen Elephantine YatraJohn Coltrane Live in Japan
user ratings (576)
other reviews of this album
Nagrarok (3)
King Crimson's third era comes to a close, although not in a particularly satisfying or unsatisfying...

Comments:Add a Comment 
Staff Reviewer
October 31st 2006


Even though it says who writes the reviews on the frontpage now, I still would have guessed that it was you and your incessant King Crimson lovin', haha.
Very good review, as usual.

Still, something is not right. This is not Pat Benatar.


October 31st 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, that's the quickest I ever got comments. Thanks for the feedback.

I kind of ignored the existence of Discipline and Beat for this review, because this album isn't TERRIBLY unlike those, but the angle I wanted to take of unexpected popiness moving into usual Crimson evil called for pretending this stood on its own.

October 31st 2006


I haven't listened to this in a while, but I remember Discipline being the only 80s release I really really liked, but I need to start really getting into these guys again.

October 31st 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Yes you do. This album took forever for me to get into it, but songs like Industry, Nuages, and Dig Me really hit me hard eventually.

Of course, the title track is just so addicting and catchy. I love it.

October 31st 2006


Another review...ah well. Great review of course.

October 31st 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

I don't really like this album, but King Crimson are fantastic.This Message Edited On 10.31.06

October 31st 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

There's a love/hate divide between Crimson fans and these 80s albums.

I think this is a better recording than ITCOTCK.

October 31st 2006


Excellent review, and thanks for the comment on mine.

Crimson's an amazing band (understatement). I got this album recently and haven't listened to the whole thing, but from what I have heard it seems pretty good.

You definitely know your stuff about KC, so I'll give this a full listen tonight.

September 30th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

This album is very boring and not worth your time. Sleepless, Model Man, Industry, and The King Crimson Barber Shop are the only worthwhile tracks on here. I love King Crimson but I still have no idea why this was ever made. Experimental is good, but taking it too far produces crap like this. This Message Edited On 09.30.07

March 28th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

I can't stop listening to this album. Tracks like Model Man, Sleepless, and Man With an Open Heart are wonderful in their own right, but Dig Me takes the album to a new level. It's a shame that so many of their fans hate their 80s work.

March 28th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

i love this album, and Discipline and Beat. the title track is awesome as well

December 31st 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

I like Discipline and hate Beat. Will I like this?

March 30th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

probably not. this album is more like beat than discipline.

May 4th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

Soooooo....what about Sleepless? You didn't just miss that on purpose? That's another good song, is it not?

June 27th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

An extremely interesting listen, but ultimately not enough melody (even for KC). The bonus tracks are fun!

September 21st 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

prefer this to Beat, love the groove on Sleepless

September 21st 2012


Album Rating: 2.5

i actually prefer beat to this by a hair. larks pt. 3 is the bomb though

September 21st 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

ye larks 3 is great idd

November 3rd 2012



November 3rd 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

Bibble blacku

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2019
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy