On Second Thought
King Crimson - Discipline






for better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.

I really don’t get it. Here I am, shaking my dorm room walls with King Crimson’s Discipline, yet no one complains. Yesterday I was blasting Metal Machine Music, and no one knocked on my door. In fact, the only time I’ve been asked politely to “turn it down” was when my sleep-deprived id decided downloading the majority of the Kingston Trio catalog and allowing their innocent harmonies to emanate throughout the building would be a good idea.

But no complaints about ol’ Lou’s noise experiment. And no complaints about Discipline.

Maybe I’ve become so entrenched in music that I no longer know what “normal” people consider palatable. Surely Discipline is strange enough to annoy some of my housemates. It’s got rapid-fire polyrhythmic guitar noodling. It’s got strange spoken-word-over-deconstructed-funk sections. It’s got Adrian Belew screaming about “Elephant Talk.” What’s there not to complain about?

Maybe it’s the funk. The kids do seem to like the funk, no matter how it’s presented. There’s just something about a danceable beat that appeals to my generation. Well, King Crimson certainly has that. Aside from “The Sheltering Sky” and “Matte Kudasai” every song on this album could, theoretically, be danced to. On “Elephant Talk” the band falls into an almost-disco beat, with the “stick” and drums settling into a groove that propels the song forward while Robert Fripp and Belew compete to see who can coax the most bizarre noises out of their guitars.

“Frame By Frame” grabs you with the vocals. The melody here can lodge itself in my brain for days. Here, the band strays from the groove they create in the last song when Bill Bruford loosens his drum playing a bit, and works around the bass, rather than keeping right with it. They somehow keep the sound nervous and edgy, but the song gains a certain fluidity not present on the first song.

After “Matte Kudasai,” (Discipline’s “couples-skate-only” slow dance ballad) “Indiscipline” kicks in with a menacing riff, a barrage of tom-pounding and a wailing, moaning guitar solo. It cuts off abruptly, and lets a spoken word passage segue into an even rowdier seemingly-impromptu rhythmic and tonal workout. It cuts out and builds one last time (after a few lines of “I repeat myself when under stress / I repeat myself when under stress”), and the second guitar, bass, and drums really let loose, Bruford hammering the cymbals while Fripp meanders around the fret board, moving slowly, but with a clear destination.

Side two brings us more funk-meets-prog with “Thela Hun Ginjeet”, and a soothing, near-ambient piece, “The Sheltering Sky.” The title track closes the album, building on a guitar line from “Thela Hun Ginjeet”, and taking it through several variations, building in intensity each time.

The needle lifts itself up and the turntable spins to a halt, and it’s over. Discipline maintains a solid rhythm throughout the record, and always manages to convey a sense of destination, driven by the solid bass and drums. Despite the spoken-word sections and modal rock jams there are no complaints from the hallway. Maybe it’s the funk.


By: Evan Chakroff
Published on: 2003-09-01
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