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Imperfect one of a trio
on 14 April 2013
This 1984 album is the third from KC's Fripp-Belew-Levin-Bruford line-up of the 1980s. It's broadly similar in style to its immediate predecessors `Discipline' and `Beat', but due to its overambitious attempts to straddle different styles ends up as neither fish nor fowl, so to speak.
The original album was divided into two halves. `Left Side' has five songs, very much in the rhythmic dance style of `Beat', very Talking Heads, very 1980s. The title track, `Model Man' and `Sleepless' are all good songs with a strong groove; the slower, more melodic synth-dominated `Nuages' (Clouds) closes the set.
`Right Side' is more experimental. Here the band's attempts to resurrect the instrumental noodlings of the Wetton-Cross era succeed only in part. The atonal discordancy might be described as `challenging' to listen to (I invite any listener who genuinely enjoys `Dig Me' or `No Warning' to own up now. What, no takers?). With `Larks' Tongues in Aspic III' however, the band does almost connect with the spirit of their earlier 70s incarnation, but the result doesn't quite hit the mark like LTiA I&II. The command of complex time-signatures and key changes is there, but the fiery energy which characterizes the earlier works is somehow missing.
The 30th Anniversary remix also includes `The Other Side' as extra material. The best bit here is `The King Crimson Barber Shop' in which the band members sing unaccompanied in harmony and poke fun at themselves. The remainder consists of `Industrial Zone A' and `B' (more atonal instrumental noodling and definitely not easy listening) and three different mixes of `Sleepless', none of which better the original album track.
`3 of a Perfect Pair' rounds off KC's distinctive 1980s period, so completists will obviously want it in their collections. If asked to choose one of the three as a place to start, my recommendation would be the melodic and fresh-sounding `Discipline' which is a great landmark of an album - though some argue persuasively for the follow-up `Beat'. Despite some fine moments 3oaPP overall is far from perfect; lacking a cohesive theme it's just OK but no better.