A commenter made a valid point the other day about this whole project stating that comparing some of these albums is like comparing two different bands. He was absolutely right in his statement, that in essence every time King Crimson reforms it is almost as if a new band is there, that is the essence of the group. With that said I still find it appropriate to create these comparisons, despite the huge differences there are many similarities as well. Fripp has the tendency to write Crimson material is specific ways. Not only that, but it is still quite feasible to explore the quality of execution of each album. Some of that is interpretation on my behalf, but in essence all art journalism is (is this journalism?).
Seriously? Do we have to do this folks? While we knew what would come of The Power To Believe vs Discipline, the former at least had a chance to convince the listener that it was the stronger album (not a good one, but neither here nor there). Here we have a one sided flogging that really warrants little to write about. On one side we have chunks of The Power To Believe with a few unique songs and live recordings peppered in compared to the debut behemoth from one of the most powerful line-ups in the bands history.
Lark's Tongue In Aspic is a difficult animal to harness; wildly experimental and challenging to any and all listeners. Fripp's new line-up was wild and fresh, free from the confines of honking horn instruments he could finally break away from the jazz tones that had always been woven into the fabric of the band. The addition of David Cross on violin provided a new haunting tone to the music while second drummer Jamie Muir added and extra dose of percussion although he spent less time on his drum stool and more time running around smacking anything he could get his drum sticks on. This all culminated in a very loud, grating, but rewarding line-up.
Progressive rock was known for its complexity, but still often was pretty straight forward, pulling influences from the classical era. It was majestic and whimsical. Fripp pulled a direct 180 from this trend and went with something that sounded like instruments were ran into each other, not so much actually "played". The influence of the classic progressive era is much more apparent in contemporary music than this new calamity, but it would be foolish to think that this "aggressive progressive" would be left unnoticed in the future. Fripp would continue to explore some of these concepts in his future line-ups, but you can not imagine bands like The Mars Volta, Dream Theater, or Tera Melos would be who they are today without these inspirations.
You really do not get any of that from Happy With. It is an EP, but an EP often symbolizes a teaser of what is next. Strangely they did not pick any of the truly exciting tracks from the following The Power To Believe. Power is a great reawakening of the King Crimson spirit; a vigorous attack on the senses. Songs like Level 5 and Dangerous Curves remind me of a 21st Century, Lark's Tongue in Aspic Pt. 2 and The Talking Drum. Why would you preview such a monster with the poppy elements of the album? It reminds me of being shown the The Widow as a representation of Frances The Mute. An album that contains a 30 minute epic is not properly represented by a 3 minute desert ballad in the same way an album that features the fastest interlocking rhythms the band has ever created will not be properly represented by a song that reminds you that you are indeed listening to the chorus.
None of the songs on Happy With are bad, but they are not the best work the follow-up has to offer. We get a couple exclusives that are decent at best and a few live renditions of ConstruKction favorites. The obvious highlight is the more acoustic version of Eyes Wide Open which is a wonderful item that shows Crimson has a softer side too.
So...yea...umm what else is there to say? Obviously more for Lark's sake, but lets save that for when it takes on little brother Red.