(All Album Reviews by Octavio Trimmingham)
Adrian Belew (guitar, lead vocal)
Robert Fripp (guitar, organ, frippertronics)
Tony Levin (stick, bass guitar, support vocal)
Bill Bruford (drumming)
Beat represents my very first exposure to King Crimson’s music at the young age of 16 or so. If you told me then that I’d be writing about this album 18 years later, with plans to post those writings on a worldwide accessible medium called the Internet one day, I’d look at you sideways and laugh. But here I am and I must say “Tempus fugit”!...oh wait, wrong band.
Any-hoo, I became curious about this band after finding out it was the band that Bill Bruford decided to leave Yes for. Soon thereafter, I heard about Beat from another musical junkie friend of mine at high school. Based only on his recommendation, without hearing note one, and knowing Bruford was involved, I went out and bought it. I figured, “With a name like King Crimson, they must have something interesting to offer” so I went for it. It’s funny how true that self-convincing statement would turn out to be.
Two milestones are associated with this release. It is the first album produced by a non-member of the group (Rhett Davies) and it is also the first time in KC’s history that the exact same band personnel were involved on two consecutive albums.
“Neal and Jack and Me” opens the album with the trademark interlocking guitar techniques which were first displayed by Fripp & Belew on their 1981 release, Discipline. A few of the songs, including this one along with the album’s title, are the product of Adrian’s inspiration with beat generation authors & poet’s. (Ginsberg - ”The Howler”, Kerouac & Cassady - ”Neal and Jack and Me” & William S. Burroughs - ”Sartori in Tangier”).
"Neurotica", with its frantic, avant-garde mix of Belew’s guitar effect produced “raging city” sounds and Bruford’s endless assault on his drum kit make this the most amazing track on the album to me. This song by itself is worth the price of admission, in my opinion. It’s funny, even after my umpteen thousand listenings to this trippy song, I still manage to be startled by the sudden onslaught of drums and guitar produced sirens/squeals/traffic noises in the beginning of the song. Maybe because it’s difficult to gauge it entry with the humming, droning intro. It hits you like a speeding city bus, you’ll see.
Although Beat is probably seen by most as Crimson’s boldest attempt at “commercial success”, I don't understand why so many longtime fans and even fans of this period dislike it, in many cases. The only thing I can find to dislike about it personally is that it is too damn short! It ends way before you’re ready for it to. Other than that, I can’t find a bad moment on it.
The musical style ranges from the quasi-commercial (“Heartbeat”, “Two Hands”) to the upbeat and quirky (“Sartori in Tangier”, “Neurotica”) to avant-garde and pleasantly disturbing (“The Howler”, “Requiem”). It is my favorite release of the 3 primary colored releases of the 80’s and I would recommend this one to anyone looking for a starting point to discover the band….much as I did, 18 years back. Check it out for yourself.
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