Larks' Tongues In Aspic

King Crimson

EG, 1973

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


After calling it quits with the original incarnation of King Crimson, Robert Fripp decided the next lineup of the band needed a violin and some electronics to replace the Mellotron. Enter John Wetton, David Cross and one of the best albums of Crimson's career.

Larks' is one of the most challenging slabs of music to come out of the decade -- it has structure, unlike similar art-rock epics Tales From Topographic Oceans or the final hour of Tubular Bellsmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , but is so off-kilter and unpredictable that classifying it seems antithetical to its spirit. The only thing remotely resembling a pop song is "Book Of Saturday," because of its brevity and the presence of lyrics. As with most Crimson records, words are pretty far down the list of things that matter.

Both parts of the dense, instrumental title track are bracing hard rock; "Pt. 2" is stronger, riding a powerful riff in between ascending chord structures. "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt. 1" offers some quiet percussion for a while before exploding into a rock section, then a pseudo-classical violin interlude, then some random sounds and instruments ending the piece. It's unsettling, dense and challenging.

"Book Of Saturday" is a nice little interlude after the opener, using a backward guitar as a backdrop for the verses. "Exiles" recalls older Crimson, a moody number that uses cymbals and violin instead of a Mellotron to make its point; these shift into a pleasantly depressing pop song, closing with a buildup of sound and an acoustic guitar fadeout.

"Easy Money" clanks along but loses its momentum in the verses, which are mixed low and do not segue well at all into the rest of the song; the middle section also is too slow and not redeemed by the loud ending, which includes some creepy processed laughter. But it is redeemed by the truly mesmerizing "The Talking Drum," a true triumph of the art of building musical drama and a high point for Bill Bruford's drumming (late of Yes). His work and a rubbery bassline carry the piece for seven minutes as guitars and synthesizers weave in and out, getting louder, faster, until the whole thing ends with shrieking electronic screams and giving way to the rock chord of "Larks" part two.

This one takes a while to get, but as with most Crimson, the reward is worth the journey, even if it takes a few tries. This is truly progressive rock, challenging and arty in the best sense of the words and one of the band's best works. 

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



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