Seven years after breaking up his band for good in the wake of Red, Fripp reconvened King Crimson with drummer Bill Bruford and two new members. Fripp had intended to call the new band Discipline, but was so impressed by his new lineup that King Crimson was the only name that fitted. Adrian Belew is on vocals and guitar, a technological whizkid who’d toured with Frank Zappa, Bowie, and the Talking Head, is able to coax exotic noises out of his instrument. Tony Levin also joins on Chapman stick and bass. There’s a section of Fripp’s diary included in the liner notes of the CD reissue, where Fripp lays down a set of rules for Bruford including a cymbal ban, and Bruford is often playing ethnic beats rather than a rock style. The King Crimson of the 1980s owes an obvious debt to new wave acts like Talking Heads, but their ornate sound, with four virtuous playing tightly together and with world music flavours, is unique.
Belew is a capable vocalist, sounding uncannily like Talking Head David Byrne on the funky and clever ‘Elephant Talk’, and delivering the smooth ballad ‘Matte Kudasai’. Both ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’ and ‘Indiscipline’ have amusing spoken passages; the latter is a study of painting appreciation while the former is an over-dramatised account of an attempted mugging. The tightly constructed ‘Frame By Frame’ is the best song on Discipline, while the two instrumentals that conclude Discipline are more tightly focused than the improvisations of the 1970s’ groups.
While Discipline is an interesting exercise, introducing virtuosity to the new wave ideals of energy and conciseness, it has an air of intellectualism and austerity that makes it difficult to love, but it’s a technically impressive record.