King Crimson: Red (pt. 2)

red

Dear Matthew:

Okay, maybe there is something to this prog stuff after all.

Don’t get too excited. I wasn’t blown away like I was by the Baroque accordions. I wasn’t nailed to my seat like I was by Brian Eno. In fact, ‘Red’ and ‘One More Red Nightmare’ are the only two songs I was really, really into. But hey, baby steps, right?

If this album is any indication, I can definitely see why you suspect that NoMeansNo are King Crimson fans. Indeed, if you like the song ‘Red’, I suggest you immediately check out some of the proggier NoMeansNo, like Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy? One of my favourite things about this project has been discovering the foundations, or in some cases, what are essentially early versions of more modern music that I love, and I can certainly see why ‘influential’ is one of the most popular adjectives used to describe King Crimson.

You might be onto something with intuitive appreciation of music. I mean, I try to have an open mind, but realistically, I usually know if I’m going to like a song with the first few seconds — or if I’m going to really like it, anyway. To use a crude metaphor, it’s a bit like sex appeal: you usually know right away if you’re attracted to someone, but it’s often hard to pick out a specific reason why. It’s intuitive. And sure, there are people you warm up to over time, but with the most compelling people, it’s instantaneous.

So there’s definitely a lizard-brain level of liking music, but I’m becoming increasingly aware of how much a band’s — to use a word that accurately conveys the idea I’m talking about but makes me want to throw up a little — brand affects how much people like them. Maybe a big part of why I could never get into prog was all of the pretense — the stuff you pointed out that King Crimson doesn’t do. Would I have liked them as much if I’d gone into the album not knowing that? I’d like to think so, but you never know. (In my own defense, I can usually put aside ‘brand’ considerations once I hear the actual music itself; generally the most it does is keep me from listening in the first place.)

One last thought: in terms of contemporary bands, your description of how the band as a Fripp-powered engine that looks completely different every time it’s reassembled reminds me a lot of Gorillaz. Gorillaz is, at its core, a Damon Albarn solo project with art design by Jamie Hewlett, but it features so many guest musicians and producers that every album almost sounds like a different band. Dan the Automator’s influence is all over the self-titled record, and Danger Mouse is definitely on display on Demon Days. (I believe Plastic Beach is produced by Albarn himself.) In fact, now that I think of it, this sort of band is actually pretty common, if not quite to the same extent: Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor, LCD Soundsystem is James Murphy, Queens of the Stone Age is Josh Homme, etc.

Anyway, congratulations — I didn’t completely hate a prog album!

— Matt

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