Sound: "Beat", the second of King Crimsons trio of albums released in the 80s is both an eccentric and beautiful collection of songs. The professors of prog had showcased their new direction with "Discipline", mostly moving away from the dirty and dark sound of albums like "Red" and moving onto a much cleaner, more refined "new wave" type of thing and this direction is continued in "Beat".
As in "Discipline" we have Adrian Belew on guitar and vocal duties. It's clear that he had a large influence in Crimson's newer sound and his vocals truly are some of the best in the business, particularly on the outro to "Neal And Jack And Me" which is one of the most beautiful sections of any song that I know of. You can hear his signature "noise" solo's in songs such as "Waiting Man" and "Neal And Jack And Me" and he complements the complex guitar parts devised by Robert Fripp very well.
On drums we have the mighty Bill Bruford. With the risk again of sounding like a Crimson fanboy, I must say they could not have found a better drummer for the job. Bruford's drum parts are very complicated yet almost always quite subtle. He mostly stays away from conventional hi hat abuse, instead opting for a lot of tom work and even when he plays a simple beat, closer inspection will often yield quiet intricacies.
Far be it from King Crimson to be a "normal" band and so instead of a bassist we Tony Levin on the Chapman stick. The inclusion of a chapman stick in a rock band seems a tad strange but Levin makes it work well. Seldom will the slides and tapped melodies seem out of place. It truly shines at some points such as with the superb bass-line "or chapline" to "Sartori In Tangiers" with the Frippmeister soloing in some East Peruvian scale or something... At times one does feel that a regular bassist would fit better however.
Robert Fripp is known amongst those in the know as one of the most technically proficient guitar players alive and showcases his talents well in "Beat" from the polyrhythmic madness of "Waiting Man" to the soft romantic guitar lines of "Two Hands" and back to some crazy jazzy avante garde shreddy yumminess in "Requiem". The lads at King Crimson truly are a phenomenal group of musicians. // 9
Lyrics: Lyrically King Crimson for me can be a hit and miss but perhaps that's because I don't look into them enough. Belew's sometimes soothing and romantic lyrics are counterpointed with strange and seemingly random lyrics such as on "Neurotica" and "Neal And Jack And Me". I find that the lyrics compliment the music well and at the end of the day I believe that King Crimson are a band where the music comes first. That said there are some sections where the lyrics can really hit you hard bro! Three of the eight songs on the album are instrumental. // 7
Overall Impression: "Beat" is my favourite King Crimson album. It remains progressive and at times frightening but is also accessible, touching at points and certainly beautiful. If I were to recommend some songs to check out before getting the album they would be "Waiting Man", "Neal And Jack And Me", and "Neurotica". Thanks for reading. // 9