Wednesday, November 18, 2009

King Crimson-Lizard (1970)

When I first heard this album I really didn't know what to make of it. It's like nothing else in the Crimson body of work, and it's not much like anything else by anyone else either. Most immediately noticeable is the way Fripp hangs around in the background, picking on his acoustic guitar and adding some mellotron lines here and there; there are no screaming electric leads at all. The whole album is very warm and acoustic, and in fact the best performances (aside from some excellent acoustic guitar from Fripp in the opening track) come from sax-and-flute player Collins and pianist Tippett. Even Sinfield's lyrics are very different from other King Crimson words; the whole album reads like some kind of nightmarish fairy tale.

Of all the tracks here, only "Lady of the Dancing Water" has a clear comparison - it's another quietly pretty acoustic ballad in the style of, say, "Cadence and Cascade". The first three tracks are all short, psychotic freakouts that go in decreasing order of effectiveness. "Cirkus" is the coolest thanks to its weird juxtaposition of evil mellotron and clear acoustic guitar; "Happy Family" is the weakest thanks to Haskell's terribly distorted vocals (I don't have a problem with his singing in general, but that distortion is just too much for me). The title track is the only side-long epic King Crimson ever wrote, and it's a little rusty. The opening two sections are great - Jon Anderson's vocals in "Prince Rupert Awakes" are a fresh surprise and work very well within the framework of the music, and the improvisatory middle and beautiful closing part of "Bolero" are equally effective. However, the band seems to get a bit lost in indulgence in the ten-minute "Battle of Glass Tears" - this section has never gotten through to me. "Big Top", on the other hand, is a fittingly weird closing track to a uniquely insane album.

Lizard is perhaps the most underrated of King Crimson's albums, and contains some of the band's most unique, demented, and enjoyable work. While it'd be a poor place to begin exploring the world of KC, it's a strong effort overall, whatever Mr. Fripp thinks about it."

This album is love or hate as far as Crimson fans go but I think it's utterly fantastic. It's weird for sure but you probably knew that already. Some songs are lush and beautiful, others are just straight bizarre. It's true that this probably isn't the best Crimson album to start with unless you like way weirder music to begin with. Which may be the case. Either way, this is a great album. Dig it.

Playing indoor games


Anonymous said...

I guess Fripp got ya, heh heh

Matt Stevens said...

Its an odd one this - i prefer the albums before and after but interesting work none the less