This is not your father’s King Crimson. This is a new and different group playing like you’ve never heard before. Robert Fripp plays WAY outside the box, Tony Levin playing a new instrument (Chapman Stick) that sounds almost other worldly, Bill Bruford giving up the cymbal crashes for the most part, and the relative newbie Adrian Belew playing sounds on the guitar that can only be described as crazy!
The Talking Heads-inspired “Elephant Talk” shows a wonderful sense of humor as vocalist Belew goes through the first five letters of the alphabet in describing the way we communicate with one another. It’s catchy and fun, while remaining technically proficient. Belew played with the Heads during their most innovative and progressive period, and this is where much of the similarities may derive from.
My favorite cut is “Frame By Frame,” where polyrhythmic arpeggiated playing by the entire band works against one another and then melds into an incredible sound that is held together by the vocal and the long drawn out notes that Belew sings. Bruford especially shines here as well.
“Matte Kudasai” is perhaps the most beautiful ballad that King Crimson has performed and this is up against some incredible pieces like “Epitaph” and “Book of Saturdays.” It is absolutely gorgeous and showcases Belew’s vocal ability.
After these first three songs, the record begins to get more and more experimental and abstract. It sets the standard for where King Crimson would take their music for the next few decades. “Indiscipline” is about learning the guitar and features a monologue from Belew over an aggressive instrumental backing. “Thela Hun Ginjeet” has Belew recording some ideas while walking through the streets of New York, getting accosted by some hoods and dovetails back into a song about the recording of the recording. It’s like a palindrome, all done over a tribal rhythm with a memorable and hooky chorus. “The Sheltering Sky” is a typical modern day Fripp soundscape (although there was no “typical” before this), and “Discipline” is another instrumental that showcases the upbeat rhythms and unique guitar stylings of the two guitarists. They are both as different from one another as they are different from what came before.
Discipline is part Talking Heads, part solo-Peter Gabriel, part Red-era King Crimson, but unlike any of those in so many ways as well. King Crimson kept reinventing itself during the 70s, from the first album (1969) to Lark’s Tongue In Aspic (1973) to Red (1974). This album, after a seven year hiatus, is just one more way of reinventing the Crimson wheel as it continues turning even today.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on April 7th, 2011