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Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (King Crimson, 1973) 6 September 2008

Posted by Basilios in King Crimson, Music Reviews.
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After releasing the previously reviewed In The Wake Of Poseidon, King Crimson lost those members with the greatest songwriting talent. The group found itself directionless from a creative point of view, and did what directionless groups do: drift. After a couple of not really good albums (Lizard and Islands, which I have but am not interested in reviewing at the moment, to be honest), the group finally collapsed.

Thus ended King Crimson, Phase 1; but that was not going to stop group leader Robert Fripp for very long. After a couple of years he assembled another group to raise the King Crimson standard, and set forth to create more innovative music; Phase 2 had begun. Once again, he picked very good musicians: bassist John Wetton (later of Asia), violinist David Cross, drummer Bill Bruford (earlier of Yes), and genial percussionist Jamie Muir.

And in some way it is Jamie Muir to determine the tone of this beautiful album, with his clever percussions. There also is a lot of Fripp’s guitar, all over the place, and this is one of the few albums where he really, really lets rip.

This album is bookended by the two parts of the eponymous instrumental Larks’ Tongues in Aspic. Both pieces are instrumental and feature a long buildup (in the case of Part II including the penultimate piece The Talking Drum), from a gentle percussion-based start to an increase of tension and then to a loud guitar dominated segment. They make me think of a quiet conversation getting more and more tense, until it collapses into an argument.

Between the two instrumental brackets there are three songs, Book of Saturdays, Exiles and Easy Money. These lead me to introduce another member of the band, lyrics writer Richard Palmer-James. Far from being an important member like Peter Sinfield used to be, he tended to stay in the background. In a similar fashion, his lyrics are far less important to the songs that Sinfield’s lyrics were.

The singing, however, is just as good as Greg Lake’s used to be. Bassist John Wetton does not sound like Lake a bit, and does not even try to; and that’s good, because he cuts a very good performance as he is. Because of the lessened importance of lyrics, what he sings about is not really important; it’s the music that leads.

Book of Saturdays is a love song, and what a surprise it is for King Crimson! It is the shortest and most traditional song, a gentler, slower ballad, quite worth listening.

The following Exiles is longer, more than seven minutes, and the lyrics matter even less. The song tells us a vague tale of, well, exile and escape – too vague to get me really involved. The music is nice, but this is definitely the weakest effort here.

Easy Money, the following song, is much clearer about its topic: a satire against a rich, apparently clueless person, making money catering to people’s attention – a 70s socialite.

After that, The Talking Drum builds up the musical crescendo that leads to the heavy guitars of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part II.

All in all, there are no flukes on this album. Exiles is weaker, sure, but far from offensive. There is much innovative music that subsequently influenced a large number of artists; it did not define a genre like In The Court Of The Crimson King did, but it brought fresh ideas and themes to progressive rock. This is a very good listen, whether you like progressive rock or not.

Final Grade: 27/30

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