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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Robert Fripp: The League Of Gentlemen

ROBERT FRIPP: THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN (1981)


1) Indiscreet I; 2) Inductive Resonance; 3) Minor Man; 4) Heptaparaparshinokh; 5) Dislocated; 6) Pareto Optimum I; 7) Eye Needles; 8) Indiscreet II; 9) Pareto Optimum II; 10) Cognitive Dissonance; 11) H. G. Wells; 12) Trap; 13) Ochre; 14) Indiscreet III.

General verdict: Robert Fripp as the Link Wray of New Wave music — there's something amazing about that.


Perhaps Fripp sees this album as too lightweight and silly — it has never been released on CD in its entirety, although a few tracks did make it onto the God Save The King compilation. But it is fun! This is just Robert having some good plain fun while exploring contemporary trends with his short-lived touring outfit, The League Of Gentlemen — featuring, in addition to himself, little known but largely talented bassist Sara Lee, ex-XTC keyboard player Barry Andrews, and absolutely unknown drummer Kevin Wilkinson (who, as web sources tell me, went on to hang himself eighteen years later, so I presume it had nothing to do with his being acquainted with Robert Fripp). In addition, the album features contributions from all sorts of aspiring young people — avant-gardist Danielle Dax contributes robotic vocals on ʽMinor Manʼ, Maggie and Terre Roche are featured on the spoken interludes, talking about the nature of rock music and making sexual innuendos about Fripp (yes indeed!), and Robert's spiritual guru J. G. Bennett, who passed away in 1974, is used for vocal samples.

The overall result is even more hilarious and crazy than anything on Exposure; in fact, it brings back memories of The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles & Fripp — or, to put it differently, think of this as a demented soundtrack to the Benny Hill Show, had Benny ever come up with the idea to commission one from Fripp. Most of the musical tracks are danceable grooves, but, of course, they are not here for you to dance, but rather for Fripp to use them as launchpads for all sorts of tricky guitar weaving — precisely the kind of guitar weaving you would very soon hear on Discipline, and, in fact, many of these chord sequences would later make their way, almost unchanged, onto tracks such as ʽDisciplineʼ and ʽThela Hun Ginjeetʼ (one more reason, perhaps, why he preferred not to keep the album in the catalog). Here, though, coupled with all the disco basslines, they have a positively humorous flair to them... and I love it, because there's nothing like one of the greatest guitar players in the world unleashing his internal clown on us.

The presence of Barry Andrews is actually very welcome: his Farfisa organ blends in very effec­tively with Robert's guitar, because normally the Farfisa sounds a bit cloying, like a drunk robot trying to show you his best dance moves, but here it is precisely what is needed — correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe that the idea was to make some sort of «Eighties go Fifties» record, using New Wave ideas to create a new type of post-rockabilly music: silly, funny, rhythmic, energetic, danceable, and bizarre. "How do I dance to this music?" one of the Roche sisters asks at the beginning of ʽInductive Resonanceʼ; "close, very close", replies somebody, and then the band launches into Robert Fripp's impersonation of a New Wave Duane Eddy.

I am not sure if the little excerpts from J. G. Bennett's speeches spiritually belong together with anthemic statements like "rock and roll is about fucking!" (the Roches again), followed by some actual sounds of fucking; I am not sure if the looped keyboard samples of ʽPareto Optimumʼ, sounding like a bunch of arcade machines spilling their coins, make any sense; but I am definitely sure that the try-anything-once ideology of the album is more than redeemed by the sheer fun and, when you come to think of it, the musical innovation present in these tracks. Of course, the overall musicianship here is nowhere near the level of the soon-to-be King Crimson (although it does make me wonder what the Discipline-era King Crimson would sound like, had Fripp decided to bring Andrews along for the ride). But for these purposes, it does not need to be.

It is quite telling, really, when an obviously «jokey» album from an era long gone by feels so fresh and exciting — what matters here is not so much the music itself as this collective excite­ment about actually making a difference, pouring some of that old wine into brand new con­tainers. It is even more mindblowing when you come to realize that at the heart of that excite­ment resides a 34-year old eccentric British gentleman, consenting to carouse with a bunch of young New York hipsters while still politely keeping his distance. All in all, just another intriguing and barely predictable chapter in the Fripp Chronicles. If it ain't somewhere in your dad's collection by accident (and if it is, you have one hell of a dad), be sure to locate a vinyl rip — it all sounds even more hilarious with pops, crackles, and hisses throughout.

3 comments:

  1. I actually have this on vinyl. Unfortunately I don't have a turntable so I can't listen to it tonight. I got into KC back in the summer of 1980 and absolutely adored this album when it came out. Little did I know at the time that it would be a mere morsel that whetted one's appetite for the main course that would be 80s Crimson.

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  2. If this was never release on CD, I wonder where my copy came from?

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    1. No idea. Here is the official information:

      https://www.discogs.com/master/view/9917

      You must have a bootleg copy.

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