King Crimson – Moonchild: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Before anything, I’ll just say this: progressive rock, at its best, is truly mind-blowing. Maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, but even the haters can’t argue with the sheer ambition that those bands put in their work. It is only natural that the genre was born in the late 60’s – the decade that saw the most rock/pop acts up to that point fusing different musical genres together, as well as experimenting with the formats of both songs and albums.

One of the first bands to take those notions and expand upon them were King Crimson, with their now-classic ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ album released in 1969. It seems incredible, but the album set the template of how prog should sound and be executed like, and at the same time, it remains among the genre’s best and most representative offers. Musicians would be trying for years to catch up with that unique blend of ass-kicking rock, jazz-and-classical-influences, spooky balladry, and a balance between complexity and accessibility.

The last thing I mentioned I feel is important in particular, and God knows prog rockers are guilty of breaking the balance, of sacrificing memorability in favor of self-indulgent experimentation. Even King Crimson can be accused of doing that later on, but for the most part, ‘In the Court’ still is an easy-going, pop-orientated listen. And when I say for the most part, I mean that exactly 4 of its 5 songs fit that rule. With only ‘Moonchild’ does the band push towards a musical direction that I personally find zero interest in: free-form improvisation. What starts like a typical King Crimson ballad – halfway between emotional and unsettling, turns after no more than two minutes into an endless, directionless jamming session which at points sounds like the members hitting random notes on their instruments just for the sake of doing something.

Now, part of me thinks that maybe I should cut them some slack and appreciate the bravery of even attempting something like that in 1969. But then I try plying the track and find it near unlistenable. Maybe it would’ve worked in a shortened (super-shortened even) version, or as a small interlude between the sung part and something else, but as it is, ‘Moonchild’ stands out as the sole track that keeps the album from being perfect. Thumbs down.

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Categories: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

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8 replies

  1. I agree. I like the song section but I feel the free-form stuff in Moonchild is a bore. It interrupts the flow of the album, which is otherwise absolutely sublime. It’s ok in the background but, many I time I’ve listened to this album and fallen asleep at that part. Which means I often missed the astounding last song!

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  2. I’ll give a thumb up, even though I agree about the second part. When I had it on tape I could barely make it out so I turned it up to hear better then nearly had a heart attack when they finally crashed into the title track!

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  3. Hey Tangled!
    Always the Rebel, 00individual will play Devil’s Advocate and offer another explanation: 1969 was a heady time where the accumulation of an incredible decade was ending and the psychedelic experience of artists pushed creative expression beyond its known limits. With Moonchild, KC were expressing those “alternate” moments of reality in sound – and while they may sound random, upon repeated listenings what actually evolves is a fanciful introduction to “In The Court . . ” which, by means of the abrupt transition, magnified an iconic epic last track album ending.

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  4. The actual song (the 2+ minutes) are brilliant, but yeah, it could have done without the meandering jazzy business.

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  5. The Essential King Crimson box has an edited version that is 2:26 long. Good enough for me. The improv bit just adds nothing. Nothing but boredom and the urge to press the skip button.

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  6. This song taints an otherwise fantastic album,I always omit this track when I listen to it on ITunes.

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  7. “You’re not ready to step into the court of the crimson king, not at this stage in your training.” https://youtu.be/Af8ltlcZNi0

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  8. All part of a really good record for CB.

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