Sound — 10
After King Crimson was announced dead before the release 1974's astounding album "Red," very few would have guessed that the prog-rock behemoth would return... as a new-wave, gamelan-pop, polyrhythm playing, 4-piece. But that is exactly what happened when former Crimson players Robert Fripp (guitar) and Bill Bruford (drums) teamed up with Tony Levin (bass/chapman stick) and Adrian Belew (vocals/guitar). Compared to the line-up before it, this King Crimson relied more on intricately crafted pieces as opposed to the improvisational nature of albums like "Starless" and "Bible Black."
The main sound that sticks out immediately in tracks such as "Frame by Frame" and "Thela Hun Ginjeet" are the two guitars interlocked together in a poly-rhythmic madness. Fripp playing complicated arpeggios and Belew playing counter-point with carefully placed chords or alternate arpeggios. Quite frankly, it sounds incredible and no other band has quite matched this style since.
Bruford further adds to the sound by utilizing a mostly cymbal-less drum kit. Oddly enough, Bruford's accents typically fall outside the accented notes in either the guitar or bass lines. Levin showcases a wide range of styles with his bass, somehow reeling in the madness surrounding him into a beat the listener somehow can tap their foot to. Levin also showcases his skills on the chapman stick, which adds an exceptional amount to album opener "Elephant Talk."
Lyrics — 8
In my personal opinion, Belew's voice is what brings this music down the most. I enjoy his humorous spoken-word listings in "Elephant Talk" and his strange monologue in "Indiscipline." But his singing is what gets to me. I can't escape how "goofy" his voice sounds. Many others would disagree with me, and I am fine with that. I will admit that I do enjoy the melodies that he somehow manages to craft into the complex songs. "Frame by Frame" especially showcases an excellent melodic ear. Lyrically, "Discipline" is all over the place. From "Elephant Talk" listing various "words with a 'D' this time," to "Thela Hun Ginjeet"'s lyrics regarding the treacheries of visiting New York, the lyrical content is nowhere close to boring.
Overall Impression — 10
Perhaps what is kind of disturbing about "Discipline"'s incarnation of Crimson is that there is almost no trace of the band we know from the seventies. Gone are the subtle influences of classical and folk. Gone are the whimsical lyrics and the mellotron-drenched soundscapes. The only remnants of "Red" is the unhinged "Indiscipline." So while this King Crimson is not same group that brought us "21st Century Schizoid Man," they still brought us a landmark album.
"Discipline" further stretched the boundaries that progressive rock had been known to exceed. The musicianship is superb, whether shown on the barbaric poundings of Bruford's drums in "Indiscipline" or in gradually-building, interlocking guitars on the meditative, articulate "Discipline." Arguably, this album brought the Crim the closest to traditional pop (I use that word knowing full well that no one in their right mind would think to use the word "pop" to describe this) than any other album before it, thus widening their commercial appeal. Even though this is not the Crimson of yore, anyone open-minded enough for the average King Crimson album will fully embrace this masterpiece of '80s prog.
Personal Likes: "Frame by Frame," "Indiscipline," "Discipline."
Personal Dislikes: "The Sheltering Sky."