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King Crimson - The Power to believe (Sanctuary)

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After thirty years of distorting musical boundaries like some sort of aural Stretch Armstrong toy, King Crimson finally lost their way with the millennium release of "The ConstruKction of light". It was a sadly uninspiring piece of aimlessness, the sound of a band that had run out of ideas and finally stumbled under the weight of past successes both commercial and creative.

With "The Power to believe", they have something to prove, perhaps for the first time in their long and varied careers. The results of their latest studio sessions are somewhat mixed. Opener 'Level five' is an electronic statement of intent. The King is far from dead. It's ominous and driven like rivets being beaten into your ears. It's winding and dizzying like a broken ride at Funderland. It's just not new.

The same can be said of 'Elektrik'. Taken on its own, it's a devastatingly brilliant instrumental, the soundtrack to a mind falling apart and the spirit straining to hold on. Once again though, we've heard it before. The various Crimsons have covered the pummelling instrumental perfectly with 'Red', 'Larks' tongues in aspic' and the almost unplayable 'Fracture'. 'Elektrik' is great, but it's not a patch on those songs.

'Facts of life' is the first moment of real interest on the album. The pounding riffery is augmented with quizzical electronic touches and the mix of touched and pure vocals forces the song through the brain. There's no stopping it. The freshness of this song is mirrored in the queasy interplay of 'Dangerous curves'. It's insistent in tone and worrying to listen to, like crossing a bridge when you just know there's a troll under there.

When I heard it on the EP, I thought 'Happy with what you have to be happy with' was a work of unmitigated genius. In the context of this album, it shines even brighter than before. Its stunted and deformed guitar and forceful drum work give shape to what is a triumph of the band's aim of letting the music play them.

Overall then, this is just four or five real Crimson songs with a lot of artless noodling in between. What they have given us is of such undeniable quality, it shows they've lifted that cross of expectation up on their backs again. It's good to have one of the most vital bands in rock music back in the running once more.

Dominic Body

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