Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Dec. 9, 2005
The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson Volume Two: 1981-2003 (Discipline Global Mobile)
"King Crimson is one of the few gigs in rock & roll where it's even remotely possible to play in 17/16 [time] and stay in a decent hotel." KC skin-beater Bill Bruford's liner-note quote is all you need to know about this sonic institution: rock & roll in odd time signatures, yet successful enough to tour frequently. Volume Two bests last year's highly regarded Volume One: 1969-1974, because, frankly, the music's even better. Like a second-stage rocket, the 1981-onward KC took their esteemed reputation and intrepid instrumentation to new heights, in their classic 80s quartet, 90s double trio, 00s double duo, and ProjeKct offshoots. Like the first volume, Volume Two has a gig chronology, complimentary and caustic press reviews, posters, memorabilia, and candid pictures. The music, two live and two studio discs, is like nothing else: would-be Stanley Kubrick soundtracks, angular Beatles-esque pop, well-orchestrated aggro-industrial noise, and heart-squeezing ballads. It's easy to see why this collective raised the bar for Dream Theater, Tool, Radiohead, etc. A cookbook for adventurous listening, V2 also includes studio and/or live versions of faves "Elephant Talk," "THRAK," "Three of a Perfect Pair," "Sartori in Tangier," "Lark's Tongue in Aspic: Part IV," and "Dinosaur." Crimson's fearlessness justifies multiple song renditions, in no small part thanks to Austin's own drumming maestro Pat Mastelotto, along with founder Robert Fripp, senior melodist Adrian Belew, touch guitarist Trey Gunn, and low-end surgeon Tony Levin. And what other prog outfit would adjoin the self-deprecating barbershop quartet "The King Crimson Barbershop"? Thankfully, time has finally caught up with King Crimson's avant-garde.