Thursday, October 22, 2009

Larks' Tongues In Aspic

King Crimson/1973
After breathlessly bringing home the new King Crimson album, tearing open the shrink wrap, placing the plastic platter on the turntable, warning my parents to leave the room, and gently dropping the dirty, worn stylus to vinyl back in ’73, one thing became immediately clear – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic was definitely not your 21st Century Schizoid Man’s King Crimson. For starters, the strange and scary album title sounds like the recipe for a witch’s brew. I’ve tasted my fair share of nasty brew, but thankfully minus any larks’ tongues getting stuck in my teeth. Secondly, the first track kicks off with what sounds like a seriously out-of-whack music box, slowly, ominously fading in, which only adds to the overall tension and creepiness. Not exactly “21st Century Schizoid Man,” the proto head-banger that kicked off their first album, In The Court Of The Crimson King. No, this was a new, improved King Crimson and would turn out to be its most stable classic lineup (the studio had to install revolving doors for their first four albums). With new players (aside from founding member, guitarist and major domo Robert Fripp), a new lyricist and a new attitude, King Crimson was back with a vengeance and a heavier, edgier musical approach. Gone were the gentle cellos and languid woodwinds of the previous LP, Islands – replaced with the arch, angular, almost machine-like precision of the new crew: David Cross' staccato violin jabs, Jamie Muir's eccentric percussives, bassist John Wetton’s massively distorted bass guitar and Fripp doing his best Black & Decker chainsaw imitation. Drummer Bill Bruford actually quit the hugely successful Yes to add his own brittle syncopation to these fractured arrangements. Still, echoes of the old Crimson remain – the wafting of a mellotron in the gorgeous “Exiles,” the bluesy sleaze of “Easy Money,” etc. Granted, King Crimson was never known for its cheery, sunny musical disposition. Larks’ Tongues In Aspic merely carried on this tradition. Considered the strongest post-In The Court Of The Crimson King album, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic really can't be compared to that album. This is basically a completely different band – with similarities in name only. Long live the King.

Essential Tracks: “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Pt. 1” “Exiles” “Easy Money” “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Pt. 2”

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