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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

King Crimson

Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With

Review by Julie Knispel

Happy With What you Have to be Happy With was the second consecutive EP release from King Crimson, and presented a look at additional material that would, along with the instrumentals presented on the Level Five EP, form the majority of the band’s (at the time) forthcoming studio album The Power To Believe. The material here is primarily studio based, and showcases a more experimental and eclectic side of the band, while also offering up some of the group’s most delicately melodic and straightforward material.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Bude
A very brief processed/vocoder track, this is closely an analogue to “The Power To Believe I,” albeit far more slight.
Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With
This is perhaps the most cynical piece the band has ever committed to album...and it rocks in 11! “And when I have some words, this is the way I’ll sing / Through a distortion box, to make them menacing.” Belew seems to be simultaneously deriding the current crop of faux-metal bands and the band’s fervent fan base, who want nothing more than more of what they already have. Distorted chords alternate left and right, with a weirdly twisted guitar solo and four to floor basic drumming...in 11.
Mie Gikure
This track opens with another brief vocodered voice before dark, ominous soundscapes build from silence. The music is reminiscent of Fripp’s The Gates of Paradise soundscapes, among his most moving and darkest solo material ever. All too brief at 2:00, it could have easily been extended several more minutes without sounding overly long.
She Shudders
The alternating sequence of vocoder vocal and more traditional track continues with another brief, 30-second vocal piece. These act like brief musical aperitifs, refreshing the ears in preparation for the next musical course.
Eyes Wide Open (Acoustic Version)
King Crimson has only very rarely explored acoustic instrumentation, and this track is ample evidence that this has been a shortcoming. “Eyes Wide Open” is a shimmering ballad in a similar vein to “One Time” from 1995’s THRaK album. Fripp and Belew play gently interlocking guitar lines, while Gunn and Mastelotto provide a gently pulsing, heartbeat like rhythm. Belew’s vocals are sweet and slightly layered, the track vaguely Beatles-esque.
ShoGaNai
"ShoGaNai” is a Pat Mastelotto showcase, with layers and loops of ethnic sounding percussion creating a relaxing and melodic environment. The tracks swirl around each other, with tuned percussion instruments and electronics taking the fore. This is again a track and style that could have easily been extended, as the musical explorations here are quite different from anything heard by the band.
I Ran
This is yet another short processed vocal track. “I ran into a man with whom I had nothing in common. I ran into a man with whom I had no conversation.”
Potato Pie
Another Crimson blues, this piece would see a surprising amount of play on the band’s 2003 tours. The sheer number of blues based tracks in this quartet version of King Crimson bears note, as the band’s material has always been typically European and classical in arrangement historically. King Crimson may never excel as a blues band, but these experiments are interesting, and the EP release is appropriate for such wildly divergent and different explorations. The track ends in a storm of white noise, from which the next track explodes.
Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part IV (Recorded Live In Nashville 2001)
If the rendition of “The Deception of the Thrush” had its definitive airing on the Level Five EP, it is possible that this is Crimson’s definitive take on the fourth iteration of the “Lark’s Tongues” series. Thrashing and metallic, the band rides the shifting rhythms for all they’re worth, with a thickly distorted sound that suits the reinvigorated quartet’s metal leanings to a T. The coda, attached here rather than tracked out separately and without lyrics, concludes the track with a melodic elegy which rests uneasily atop the thrashy chords and sheet metal cymbal crashes.
Clouds
“Clouds” is the final Belew vocoder track, rising from the fade out on “Larks’ Four” and fading out just as quickly.
Einstein's Relatives (hidden track)
This is an odd little experimental bit, tacked on to the end of “Clouds” and unlisted on the album. Snippets of studio chatter, massively overdubbed vocal tracks, a punky vocal/guitar take on the EP title track, and more are meshed together in a musical collage/musique concrète manner. While this is ultimately a throwaway, it adds a degree of levity often missing on King Crimson releases, and ends things on an odd, yet somehow appropriate, note.
 
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