Note: VROOOM seems difficult to track down either online or in physical form. But given that most of it’s already on the following full-length album, it might be just as well. Still not sure why this EP isn’t on the main Crimson channel with the others, though. Maybe they forgot about it? Well, just wait for the THRAK post coming up with all the usual links that are missing this time.
Following the release of Three of a Perfect Pair and a lot more touring, King Crimson was again done for good. This time there was again no reason to think they’d ever return — all four guys involved had enough of their own stuff going on to keep busy, and there was probably the sense that this version of Crimson had done everything it could and had to return to the mists of time as usual.
And yet, ten years later, Crimson reformed for the fourth time (fifth? Sixth?) This version 5 or 6 or whatever of Crimson included the entire 80s lineup plus Trey Gunn on bass/stick and Pat Mastelotto on drums, creating what would become known as the “Double Trio” since each of the instruments were doubled. In addition to touring with their older material, this Double Trio recorded new originals starting with the EP VROOOM in 1994 (and no, I don’t know what this title is about — 90s Crimson would name all their albums and some of their songs after sound effects for some reason that Robert Fripp can probably explain in his usual esoteric way.)
I wasn’t sure whether I’d dedicate an entire post to VROOOM until now, the reason being this is a short 30-minute album that contains a lot of overlap with the following year’s full-length release THRAK. But it does contain two exclusives as well, and listeners had several months to mull over VROOOM before THRAK came out, so we may as well take it separately.
And for the very first time, I don’t have a lot of strong feelings about a King Crimson album, either positive or negative. This stuff is mostly just fine, not especially exciting or disappointing. Before now I’d never heard VROOOM specifically, but I do remember picking up THRAK when it was still relatively new (meaning five or six years old instead of 27… this post series just made me feel extremely old too) and while I’ll reserve judgment of the full album for the next post, I remember feeling more or less the same way then about this material as I do now aside from a few notable highlights.
This feeling is especially strong coming directly off of that 70s and 80s work. The 90s “Double Trio” Crimson is often described as a blend of the band’s 70s heaviness with its 80s precision rock style. I get where that description comes from: they are heavier than the 80s band with a bigger sound with their six-man lineup, but Belew is on vocals and Bruford and Levin are on the rhythm section as before. However, it feels to me more like this intended blend of the 70s heaviness and 80s precision led to a slight watering down, at least in their new work.
VROOOM starts promising: the opening instrumental title track is an interesting look at what these guys could do at the time, and I like that descending coda. The following song “Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream” is also a nice rock piece with a rare pissed-sounding delivery from Belew. Kind of sounds like Radiohead at times (or I should say Radiohead sounded like them. No doubt Thom Yorke and co. were influenced by these guys in general, and The Bends wouldn’t be out until the following year.) Though it is funny for the now well-established Crimson in their advancing age to be singing about such subjects, especially in the extremely short Primus-esque song “Cage”. Are you guys really living in a cage in the USA? I find it hard to believe. Weird as hell to get anything approaching social commentary on a King Crimson album too.
The only other decent song on VROOOM is “One Time”, which is one of Adrian’s nice romantic-sounding tracks. Its structure and production make it feel uncomfortably close to the dreaded adult contemporary genre (see solo Phil Collins) but Belew is more than tasteful enough to avoid writing something truly cheesy, so it’s all right. That leaves the final instrumentals “THRAK” and “When I Say Stop, Continue”, and well — they sure are instrumentals by King Crimson. I don’t know what else to say about them. Except that I can see “THRAK” making for good boss battle music in an RPG or action game. See how gaming has destroyed my brain? Then again, it gives me another way to appreciate music I might not as much otherwise.
There’s VROOOM. Not bad, but also not an album I’d recommend hunting for, especially considering what would come along in the following years. I’m not even sure why Crimson bothered with an EP when they were more than established enough to just record a full album, even after a decade-long hiatus — isn’t this more for new acts who want to prove themselves or hardcore bands who write minute-long songs?