King Crimson – Discipline
Released September 22nd, 1981 on E.G. / Warner Bros. Records
Produced by King Crimson and Rhett Davies
Peaked at #45 U.S., #41 U.K.
“Matte Kudasi” (#76 U.K.)
Prog legends King Crimson spent the first phase of their career, 1969 to 1974, perfecting the art of taking bone-crushing guitar attacks and lacing jazz and classical influences into them. The final album in this run, Red, is one of the heaviest records ever recorded; I maintain that Tool’s Adam Jones got his basic influences from it, regardless of how many moderator teams in unrelated subreddits it blows up. The band then took a seven-year hiatus. Robert Fripp, bummed with his life on the road and unsure of the direction that music would take, ended the band “forever” in 1974.
Fripp didn’t stop playing music, of course, he just stopped playing King Crimson music. He played on Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets, Evening Star, and Another Green World. He added his signature sounds to David Bowie’s Heroes and would return to do work on Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). He started his own New Wave band, The League of Gentlemen. Then, in the fall of 1980, he began forming another new band. This one would include Adrian Belew, who had played guitar with Frank Zappa before Bowie nabbed him for his criminally underrated Lodger record, as well as Tony Levin (who had played bass on early Peter Gabriel) and Bill Bruford (the original King Crimson drummer). At first Fripp was adamant that this wasn’t King Crimson; by the summer of 1981, despite his best efforts, it became King Crimson, and Discipline was the first album from this lineup of the band.
This was a different King Crimson, though. The inclusion of another guitarist in Adrian Belew meant that Fripp was looking to change things up, and the first album from this lineup showed exactly that. Discipline is very much a contemporary record. There are a lot more funk influences on Discipline than there ever were on the earlier iteration of the band. They managed to out-frantic Talking Heads at points, and in others came close to the relentless power of Pere Ubu. On paper, Fripp and Belew’s wildly different styles shouldn’t work together, but Discipline proved that you can make anything work if you just cooperate long enough.
Another difference was that this version of King Crimson stuck together. Previously, the band changed lineups on every studio album as members dropped out or joined. The lineup of Fripp, Belew, Levin, and Bruford did two more albums, 1982’s excellent followup Beat and 1984’s Three Of A Perfect Pair, whose title says everything necessary. So in a sense, leaving aside the idea that KC is just whatever whims take Robert Fripp, Discipline is the first album from the band with the largest claim to the name, and one that makes an important contribution to the sonic experiments that characterized the times.