Thursday, September 26, 2013

Round 1 Continued: In The Wake of Poseidon v The ConstruKction of Light

Wow did this became strangely relevant in the past day or so.  In case you are not aware KING CRIMSON IS BACK!  3 drummers, two guitars, bass/stick, and horn.  This line-up has a lot to be excited for, and a lot to wonder about.  What kind of sound this monster will make is something I can not even fathom.  

The fun part about this activity is the process.  Most times when I read a “best of” piece it usually is in the form of a list.  Lists provide a definite ranking to the items , which I guess can be good.  On the other hand when I think of a list, it requires a definite answer to “how do these items line up?”.  That is part of the reason I went with this bracket format instead.  You will see albums that are genuinely great lose in the first round simply to the pairing.  What that does not say is where it “ranks”, but rather it defines what I feel is better between two different albums.  That is much easier to define than a straightforward list.  I would never be able to provide a list such as that, it would be impossible for me to differentiate between some of those albums.  If you see an album you like out in the first round, you can now take solace in that it is not necessarily because it is a bad album, but rather because I would rather listen to the other option.  


We now end up at the weird bastard children in the King Crimson family.  The first, In The Wake of Poseidon is often disregarded and ignored (more on that later) the second, The ConstruKction of Light is ridiculed and despised by many.  The funny thing is, neither album is inherently bad by any stretch of the imagination.  On their own two feet we have two acceptable listens, but within the context of King Crimson they are ignored and isolated like two latchkey children.

Let us start with In The Wake of Poseidon.   If this were the inaugural album by King Crimson no one would dare criticize it.  There are some great numbers on here, and the whole album pieces together quite well.  Peace is a recurring  motif in the album that starts and ends the album and pops up in the middle too.  Pictures of a City is a pretty raucous inducing jazz rock number followed by the mellow Cadence and Cascade, and Cat Food!  Who could forget Cat Food?  It is such a quirky number, but a pleasant treat that shows these guys actually have a sense of humor.

The problem is the album does not exist in a vacuum, and suffers from a massively glaring issue, the album that came out right before it.  Unfortunately for In The Wake of Poseidon its lack of rigorous originality puts in the shadow of its big brother In The Court of the Crimson King.  Everything from the sound, to the tracklisting is shockingly similar to the first go around by King Crimson.  Hell, there are even samples of In The Court in this album!  Not to mention the guilty song, The Devil’s Triangle, is little more than a blatant rip-off of Gustav Holtz’ Mars.  I am not sure if it comes off as lazy or just  a perfect image of a band that was floundering and barely staying alive.  Does it detract from the album?  Yes.  However, does this mean this is a bad album?  Not even close, and it is a far better album than most that were coming out at the time.  

That is nor to say this was the last time Fripp and co. would be guilty of pulling material from the back catalog.  Hell, those instances are not even the most egregious.  Welcome to The ConstruKction of Light, a train wreck, but definitely not without highlights and positive points.  The title track is a wonderful number that would fit any polyrhythmic fans palette and is up there with the rest of Crimson’s music, almost.  That almost is because the song is split into two halves; the second, an instrumental medley that is a pleasant undertaking, and the first, a still musically well constructed idea that is buried under Adrian Belew’s confusing lyrics.  Make no mistake, I love Adrian, that should be blatantly obvious at this point, but c’mon, at no point should “What Am I?   A speck of lint on the penis of an alien.” ever ever EVER EVER EVER EVER be an acceptable song lyric
Adrian’s weird choice of words is so oddly flagrant here, starting off with the opening track ProzaKc Blues, which is, in my mind, the worst track ever created by King Crimson.  It’s turgid and plodding R&B sound is matched with some genuinely stupid lyrics that feature one too many self references such as “You’ve been listening to too much….Elephant Talk."  The song is so genuinely painful that I just assume it was accidentally added on.  
Still, the album has shining moments, the mentioned ConstruKction of Light, and the frantic Lark’s Tongue in Aspic Pt. IV are simply wonderful and are worthy of praise.  Unfortunately it is further weighed down by FraKcture which is genuinely a rerecording of the epic album closer Fracture from Starless and Bible Black.  Fripp argued that since he had an all new band it was an appropriate move, but fuck me, if Fripp thought that he could redo a song because he had a new line-up he could have rereleased all of his albums 4 times now.  The rendition is fine, but comes off as padding to a half thought out album. It never seems like it is firing on all cylinders.

As I started writing this I felt I was dealing with two relatively equal albums, positive, but with their faults, which would lead to a very challenging decision.  As I near the end of this write up I realize that one album I do adore despite its faults and the other I have found positive points among the glaring issues.  Perhaps I am a bit unfair to The ConstruKction of Light, maybe it is the bitter feeling towards keeping Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto over Tony Levin and Bill Bruford, or maybe I am just not giving enough credit to the highpoints such as Lark’s Tongue in Aspic Pt. IV and the better points of the self-titled track, heck,The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum, and Into the Frying Pan are not bad tracks either.  I know this lineup can do much better though.  Their follow up album is infinitely better, and the four musicians were once part of the jaw dropping double trio.  This is compared to Poseidon which has a lot of charm as an album that seems like it barely hobbled over the finish line.  It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it does more things right than wrong.

With that in mind I believe In The Wake of Poseidon deserves to move on to the next round.  It was an album constructed from a band of life support, and still succeeded in having a successful sound versus an album that straight out flat lines.