You would think the album sandwiched between two of Crimson's best works of its career would be great, but you would be wrong.
There's a limit to how much pretension a person can take and how many nonsensical lyrics they will put up with. You expect some of that from every Crimson album; it's a part of following the band. But Starless is that rare Crimson album that fails to really deliver on repeated listens.
The problem is twofold. First, some of the instrumentals here are live, but the soundboard recordings are so quiet that you end up with long stretches of nothing, or some quiet noodling on an instrument in the background. "We'll Let You Know" is the worst of these; random noise for four minutes, it's the worst Crimson song on record yet. "Trio" is fine but takes too long to get going; "Fracture" is even words, a jam session that never grows into anything more. Only the jazzy riffs at the end are worthwhile, recalling the best moments of the previous Larks' Tongues in Aspic.
As for the non-instrumentals, "The Great Deceiver" is an interesting idea but grinds to a halt in the verses, and the stupid lyrics don't make any sense either, listing off random shit that apparently happened to be nearby the studio ("Cigarettes, ice cream / figurine of the Virgin Mary / Cadillacs, blue jeans..."). "Lament" is a little better, a slower piece that gets by on a two-note figure and some violin for the first part of the song and a weird rock figure for the second part. "The Night Watch" is fine too, probably the best song here in that moody art-rock kind of way. "The Mincer" is just annoying and the title track isn't particularly memorable either.
It feels as if this album was slapped together with on-stage jam sessions and some subpar songs written just to fill space. Violinist David Cross would split after this album, and you can't blame him. While not a total failure, Starless is nevertheless a dull album that could have used some more structure, thought and volume control to make it worthwhile.
|Funnily the line "cigarrettes, ice-cream, figurines of the virgin mary" is Fripp's only lyric contribution to KC (fortunately, it seems!).|
I bought Starless when I already had Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red and surely it was a disappointment. I guess the band tried to show their live sound, as many tracks are live improvs.. I enjoy it, but it's a subpar album for their standard.