One of the little-remarked phenomena of modern popular music is the fact that the familial tradition evident 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s (e.g. the Mills Brothers, the Andrews Sisters, Steve and Edie) continues on. Merciful impulses insist that the Partridge Family and Sonny and Cher are expunged from consideration. The Davies brothers, Ray and Dave, of the Kinks, are of marginal interest; Michael and his brothers Jackson, are of course, not to be avoided. One less familiar association is that of Dale and Terry Bozzio of Missing Persons. Any band that’s fronted by what appears to be a 21st-century chanteuse attracts some notice; more importantly, its Rhyme and Reason album (Capitol Records) does, too, which is an assessment that cannot be made about too many other recent releases made by family, friends, enemies, or complete strangers.
Not only is Missing Persons proof that the family is not dead musically and that it, surprisingly, still exists in progressive areas of California, the group is very strange in that the charge of lyrical nihilism cannot be levelled against it, or at least not too effectively. For example, on “Give” the message is downright Christian. To wit, the chorus says: “When you have anything at all to give/You have everything to live for/Give all you’ve got to give/After you’ve given all you can/Give again-give again.” Of course, one can’t go too far with the religious association: after all, the album cover photography was shot by Helmut Newton, whose work has more associations with skin, leather, and motel rooms than metaphysics.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Missing Persons is the texture of its music, which is at one lush and wide-embracing and yet clean and hard-edged. For the most part, the instrumentation is centered upon electric and electronic devices: electric guitars, electronic drums, synthesizers, etc. While the other guys in the neighborhood were busy pulling the carb on a ’57 Chevy, Terry Bozzio and his pals must have been tinkering with instruments, amplifiers, and recording devices; the musicians have an appropriate facility with their devices. A number of the technopop groups that have proliferated lately produce sounds with what must strike them as foreign — perhaps extraterrestrial — objects: the result may be rhythmic, but it’s far from human.
King Crimson is not a family band, nor is it new. It is as “new music” (to use the current marketing label), however as the latest peroxided find. For more than a decade, since the days if In the Court of the Crimson King, the group, in one form or another, has been producing what can neutrally be designated as “compositions.” While some partisan demisophisticates try to provide justification for their favorite sounds by calling it “art rock,” most of the record-buying public argues through economics and bases its opinions on the American Bandstand School of Criticism: If you can’t dance to it, forget it. Consequently, King Crimson is pretty much forgotten. Part of the group’s problem is its own fault, which it has diagnosed on the title track of Three of a Perfect Pair (Warner Brothers/EG Records): “One, one too many/Schizophrenic tendencies/Keeps it complicated/Keeps it aggravated/And full of hopelessness/What a perfect mess.” Orderly chaos, of sorts. King Crimson has regularly made scouting raids into the structures of the music of various cultures; this time, by and large, it’s the Mideast. Soon, one is looking for the nearest minaret: to climb up on and to jump off of. cc