King Crimson moved far afield on Discipline, but didn’t forget its roots

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A retooled King Crimson returned with Discipline on Sept. 22, 1981 following a seven-year hiatus, producing an album that stands with their very best. Stalwart Robert Fripp did it, once again, but turning the band inside out: Only Bill Bruford remained from the final King Crimson 1970s-era lineups, as Fripp notably added Adrian Belew and Tony Levin.

The results on King Crimson’s Discipline are challenging and fizzy – infused of course with every progger pretension, but now boasting the snappy new-wave vibe of the day. That starts with a conversational Belew taking over vocals. (He sounds an awful lot like his old tour boss, David Byrne of the Talking Heads, on tracks like “Thela Hun Ginjeet.”) Tony Levin’s canny work on the Chapman Stick, notably on the opening “Elephant Talk,” also connected the band with art-rockers of the moment — particularly Peter Gabriel, whose post-Genesis sound was shaped in part by Levin.

“That was one of the ideas, especially in Robert’s mind, to carry on the musical legacy but with a whole new brand of music,” Adrian Belew tells us, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “Each of us had new toys that no one else was using like the stick, and the guitar synth. I really felt like we ended up making something fresh that didn’t sound like anything else.”

Yet for everything different, Discipline doesn’t move completely outside the ever-shifting King Crimson’s age-old vernacular — notably on the trippy instrumental “The Sheltering Sky,” titled after the 1949 novel by Paul Bowles. Adrian Belew’s jabbing style, we learned from the beginning, makes for an intriguing passenger during Robert Fripp’s familiar explorations into texture. Together, they created an anchoring point for a series of thrilling musical adventures.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • Chris Palmer

    this was the best band working at that time.

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