Tuesday, August 1, 2017
The mightiness of King Crimson, and King Crimson's first album, in 2017: it isn't just that "21st Century Schizoid Man" makes mince meat of Ornette Coleman, or that the album's essential enterprise (especially the title track) rips the Moody Blues and Jethro Tull to shreds; it's the principle of the thing. As is the case with The Yes Album and Fragile, here is a collection of songs, obviously written and performed by formally trained musicians, who can do the following big tasks in relation to music: orchestrate major crescendos and decrescendos; employ different time signatures artfully in relation to each other, so as to achieve sophisticated effects which also add solidity and the potentiality of permanence to the endeavor here; count bars from section to section of songs; and remain mindful of chiaroscuro, combinations of aural light and shade, so that repetitions of motifs, when they happen, are entirely earned. This is why I have what might be called "a case of prog": the apogee points of prog rock set up a game to determine which audiences, if any, can hear popular music, and spot a major musical game, and major musical moves, rather than the baby moves which constitute the backbone of most popular music (including my own, to be frank). The problem with the baby moves version of popular music, as I see it, is that over many decades, there's nothing in it to make it durable enough to last, or to need to be heard by anyone older than maybe 35. King Crimson takes English folk, rock, and avant-jazz, and puts together a composite of something that, musically (and, like I said, like Yes, Zeppelin, and the rest), courts serious art rather than mere craft. A thrilling ride; and a lesson, over many years, in how to contain multitudes.