The Grateful Dead have cornered the market on the phrase “long, strange trip,” which is almost a shame—because King Crimson might be even more qualified to embody the description.
First formed in 1969, they came out of the gate strong with In the Court of the Crimson King, that rare artifact from its ancient era that still sounds as jumpy, overwrought, and hyperactively creative today as the day it was made. If anyone today released the single “21st-Century Schizoid Man” (which led off that LP), it would be considered envelope pushing, and brilliant, and appropriately schizoid for the century.
The band is on its eighth lineup now, and has been continually operating with periods of hiatus since—the only constant being mad genius guitar player Robert Fripp, who looks like an introverted English professor, plays squalling riffs scowling and seated on a stool onstage, and who has guided this weird ship through Psychedelia, Hard Rock, New Wave, Thrash, and whatever other contrived genre of the day with an intangible integrity and dedicated to sheer noise.
Over the years, King Crimson has experimented with a variety of lineups, and this time out the band features three (three!) drummers, a horn player (back in the lineup for the first time since much earlier incarnations), bass, and two guitars. The band has decades worth of diverse material to draw upon, and little is assured other than that they will play hard, it will be dense, and largely exhilarating.
King Crimson has had somewhat of a reputation as a band for musicians, and that’s fair enough—you have to be ridiculously accomplished to get onstage under this name, and you can sense them fighting for sonic space in performance. But they have rarely gotten enough credit for being somewhat goofy under all the noise, for pushing themselves with a competitive rigor, and for always managing to surprise.
Monday, June 26