Up at 7.00 a.m. feeling slightly cornswoggled after a marathon phone call last night from Sean Hewitt. Sean and I were kicking around the TCOL's brilliant / TCOL's crap argument - as we do. Obviously, there was no particular agreement between us but as a born-again ConstruKctionist I keep hearing new and wonderful things in the album - almost with every play.
Sean feels that TCOL failed to deliver the on the radicalism which characterised the work of the ProjeKcts. In some respects I know what he means and actually agree with him. Sean's also right when he says the production of the album is curiously indistinct at times and it certainly stands out as the most self-referential of Crimson albums to date.
And yet properly viewed, TCOL is surely a further refinement of the ProjeKcts process. Whereas P1 - 4 was about re-establishing the instrumental vocabulary of the group post Double Trio, TCOL represents the move toward the integration of the vocal / song based aspects of Crimson's personality. It manages this with results that are far more successful and cohesive than anything which the Thrak era Crim achieved during its troublesome tenure.
Of course, it is perhaps too close in time to make any definitive pronouncements about final TCOL's place in the Crimson pantheon. Heavy ConstruKction suggests that a rush to judgement would be premature.
One thing is clear however - TCOL is far from being the last word from the new Crim. The experiment is still very much in process and in the meantime, King Crimson continues to plough its own distinctive furrow, gathering eclectic strands of electronica, rock and what Fripp describes as " Nouveau Metal" as they go.
In the thirty plus years of the bands history, there is a clear pattern whereby the present Crim is ignored during its lifetime but plaudits are heaped upon it with the benefit of hindsight. "Part of the pressure of working with Crim is that it takes so long before what we do is heard and accepted" says Fripp "So, any current Crim works under the weight and burden of what earlier Crims were doing."
In waiting for the critical penny to drop, Crimson have adopted an active strategy of retiring from the big stages - and the accompanying industry badgering - to a smaller niche market, where the band and its business structure can operate relatively unfettered on its own terms.
This necessarily paints Crimson primarily as cult operatives - critically influential but commercially occupying the very margins of the first division. And looking back over Crimson's work, with the exception of the very first line-up perhaps, it was ever thus. Crimson have never compromised and as far as we can tell, so close to events as they happen, they aren't about to start either.