Friday, March 28, 2014

King Crimson - Three of a Perfect Pair

This week (March 27th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Three of a Perfect Pair, the tenth studio album from the British progressive rock band King Crimson. It went to number 58 in Germany, number 43 in Canada and number 30 in the UK. Here in the US, it spent seventeen weeks on the Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 58.


The band consisted of Adrian Belew (vocals and guitar), Robert Fripp (guitar), Tony Levin (bass, synthesizer and vocals) and Bill Bruford (drums).

From what my research tells me, the record was broken into two halves. The Left Side was more of a commercial, main-stream take. The Right side was very much of an experimental take that leaned heavily to the band's progressive roots.

Side one begins with the title track and first single. "Three of a Perfect Pair" has an intriguing, mid-tempo tune to it while the lyrics are a bit of a metaphysical pondering of the power of three. The bridge features some electronic tone experimentation.

"Model Man" is built upon a funky bass line on the verses and a shifted time signature on the chorus. This one almost reminds me a bit of a Talking Heads track, even down to Belew's Byrne-like vocal inflections.

"Sleepless", the second single, went to number 79 in the UK. Again, we get another very strong bass line from Levin, this time driving things along like a feverish, haunting dream.

The B-side to the first single was "Man with an Open Heart". The percussion and the chorus "uh uh uh" have an almost tribal vibe to them.

The instrumental "Nuages (That Which Passes, Passes Like Clouds)" was the B-side to the second single. It has a very cold feel to it, like a sparse alien landscape with no real signs of life. That is, at least, what first came to mind when I heard it.

Side two opens with "Industry", a seven minute long synth and percussion instrumental fusion that repeats hypnotically.

"Dig Me" is a mish-mash of sounds and rhythms, with some stream-of-conscious lyrics from the point of view of a car in a junkyard thrown in to the mix. I am not sure this experiment completely works for me; just when I have a handle on things it veers off into an opposite direction.

Another instrumental "No Warning" is next. It has the markings of a jazz piece but with moaning synths replacing traditional rich horns. The end result is dark and depressing.

"Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part III)" is another instrumental movement in a continuing piece that was spread across a number of the band's albums (the first appeared on their fifth album in 1973 and the last appearing on an album in 2000).

I was not able to find Three of a Different Pair, or any King Crimson albums in fact, on steaming sites like Spotify. As such, I had to go over to YouTube to garner a listen of this record. While it certainly had some elements that I found intriguing, I did find some of it just a little too far out there for me. I guess that might very well be why I did not come across this one back in my college days. I suspect that this is one of those records that require multiple listens to really let it sink in.

1 comment:

Sno-Riders said...

Hey Martin! Nice writeup. Crimson definitely are/were an acquired taste, even in this more approachable/accessible formation. Their music is never easy and will frustrate the casual listener. I didn't really care for the Discipline/Beat/Three of a Perfect Pair trio of records from this lineup until after I had learned their back catalog and could appreciate how they had progressed through the years. "Lark's Toungue in Aspic" through it's iterations may serve as a connector to these different periods, but if you travel from "21st Century Shizoid Man" through "Cat Food", "Great Deceiver", "Islands","Formentera Lady", "Easy Money", and "Red", and then arrive at these three albums, it might make more sense-- that this music is not all that Crimson is about, just what they wanted to express at that time.

Fripp had a great quote which addressed how Crimson would break up and then reform periodically, seemingly performing completely different music with their new lineup:

"When music appears which only King Crimson can play, then, sooner or later, King Crimson appears to play the music"

If you check out the Crimson albums which follow in the mid '90s, such as "Thrakk" and "Zoom", I find them more distant still, but some day when I have more time I will spend more time with them and immerse myself and see what happens.

Thanks for the great post :-)

Matt