King Crimson Analysis

It has been posited that Pink Floyd stand as the archetypal rock progressive band, although counter-arguments have been put forward championing King Crimson, who epitomise the progressive music industry. Their premier album is considered the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of ‘prog-rock’ as it has been labelled, and their career in music spans over four decades. King Crimson’s title track, In the Court of the Crimson King, is deemed an awe-inspiring expression of the aesthetic of progressive rock. The album itself disregarded any commercial incentives, and its vision is perhaps the most complete of all prog-rock albums, due to the musicianship of band members, the complexity of the rhythm, and the lyrics which engage with a social conscious from the perspective of an outsider. It derived from the era of music where psychedelics were prominent, and many lyrics were written from dark places – King Crimson embraced this and created a masterpiece using the mellotron. While the band struggled in the 1970’s, the leader Robert Fripp assisted in inspiring the members to another album, In the Wake of Poseidon, expressing further creative spirit and ambition which would mark the following two albums as memorable. Fripp guided the band to release albums which were individualised and capable of invoking memories of other locations, times, and evoke an array of feelings by default.

A change occurred in 1974 with the dual release of their albums Red and Starless and Bible Black, with the band evolving further into the progressive sphere, blending a sense of the apocalyptic with the bucolic. The lyrics read poetically with a melancholic angle, such as ‘Trio’, or alternatively emulated a growing dynamic of chaos such as in ‘Fracture.’ Perhaps due to burnout, Red was in fact their last album in the 1970’s, and the tracks combined intellectual curiosity, a scientific appreciation of music, and a foreboding air of tension and darkness.

In the late 1980’s and 1990’s, the band broke into side projects, and while remaining popular, were certainly not the archetypal prog-rock band of their early years. Yet King Crimson’s music remains relevant even today, perhaps due to a nostalgic desire for an alternate location or time, or its refutation of the commercial industry by shaping its own vision and redefining the music genre. The songs of the early albums are surreal, awe-inspiring, restless, and inventive. They transcend progressive rock while ensuring it remains relevant as a genre in contemporary society.

 
 

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