Tag Archives: Reviews

Journalism I reporters select their favorite binge worthy TV shows for quarantine

As a follow-up to editor-in-chief Gracie Vanover’s review of worthy TV shows to binge watch, 10 Journalism I students offer their own binge worthy shows. 

 

Story by Catherine Amos

The Magicians

Many people can only wish for the ability to perform magic. Quentin Coldwater [Jason Ralph] finds what he has spent his entire life dreaming of when he stumbles onto the campus of Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy. The show follows several students as they try to complete as much of their education as they can. It isn’t easy, and they find that magic isn’t as whimsical as they had hoped. There are much scarier things than exams and class drama, and Quentin finds that there is something off about his favorite childhood books. For lovers of the Harry Potter series, The Magicians is the perfect show to binge. It adds a darker and more conflicting perspective to the traditional whimsy of magic.

Where to Stream: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon (Prime) Video.
Age Rating: TV – 14
Notable Actors: Stella Maeve, Summer Bishil, Jason Ralph.
Seasons & Episodes: 5 Seasons, 65 Episodes.
Favorite Episode: s3e5 “A Life in the Day.”
Favorite Character:  Eliot Waugh.

 

Story by Delaney Cook

Bojack Horseman

If you are a fan of dark humor and psychological shows, this just might cure your quarantine boredom. BoJack Horseman is about an actor who got his big break from a cheesy 90s sitcom called Horsin’ Around.  BoJack is a hasbeen actor trapped in a pit of depression, alcoholism, and self-hatred; the show gives you a small glance of how even people who seem together may be suffering the most. A little forewarning, it might not be the best idea to watch with your parents. The show has very mature themes that might make it awkward…

Where to Stream Netflix
Age Rating TV-MA
Notable Actors in the Show Will Arnett, Alison Brie, and Paul F. Tompkins
Seasons & Episodes 6 seasons, 77 episodes
Favorite Episode “Nice While It Lasted”

 

Story by Hallie Funk

The Office

The Office follows the events of a typical workplace, with characters based on the original British series. But with a blend of humor, quirks, and awkwardness, it had a long run of nine seasons. It features stereotypical roles, such as Jim, the likeable employee who has a thing for Pam, the receptionist. The main character, famously known as Michael Scott, has a bit of a narcissistic and attention-seeking personality that many fans grow to love. Many times, the characters’ personalities will clash and cause awkward tensions that we can’t help but laugh at. The great camerawork adds to the humor, showing occasional, confused glances at the camera and zooming in on expressions. And just like in real life, things go wrong. Whether it’s holding a pizza guy hostage or Dwight teaching the office how to do CPR, this show is a must-watch for comedy seekers.

Where to Stream Netflix
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski
Seasons & Episodes 9 seasons and 201 episodes
Favorite Episode ”Dinner Party”

 

Story by Josie Hardesty

How to Get Away With Murder 

Love at first sight? More like obsession at first sight. This suspense-driven thriller can have anyone flying through its episodes in no time. How to Get Away With Murder follows a group of young, ambitious law students and their brilliant, mysterious criminal defense professor. Every year, the ruthless lawyer, Annalise Keating [Viola Davis], selects four out of the hundreds of students she teaches to work with her as lawyers. This year differs as Keating chooses five competitive, attractive, and cunning students. Although, the five soon discover that working for Keating won’t be so easy when a young girl goes missing and everyone becomes a suspect. Lies are told, betrayals are revealed, and secrets uncovered. So what happens when everyone’s alibi has to match up, and they don’t?

Where to Stream Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Viola Davis, Alfred Enoch, Jack Falahee
Seasons & Episodes 6 seasons and 84 episodes
Favorite Episode “Wes”

 

Story by Abby Hoffman

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin is a hilarious and dramatic, American telenovela with five seasons. The show is about the strong Jane Villanueva [Gina Rodriguez] and her adventures through her crazy life. She lives with her extremely devout Catholic abuela [Ivonne Coll] and her not-so-devout mother [Andrea Navedo].  It is full of unexpected twists and turns and you never know what could happen next, just like an authentic telenovela. It has something that just about everyone likes, romance, comedy, crime/mystery, and a lot of drama. Jane the Virgin is a fantastic binge worthy TV show that will keep anyone on their toes.

Where to Stream  Netflix
Age Rating  TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Gina Rodriguez 
Seasons & Episodes 5 seasons and 100 episodes
Favorite Episode “Chapter Forty-Four”

 

Story by Sydney Landrum

All American

All American is an up and coming TV show. Directed towards a teenage audience, it explores the challenges of overcoming adversity and showing loyalty to those who love you. The second season was just released, which made it a front contender to binge. The plot follows a football player named Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), who lives in a poorer neighborhood in South Crenshaw, California. When coach Billy Baker (Taye Diggs) shows up at one of Spencer’s football games, he is given a new opportunity. Coach Baker offers Spencer a spot on the football team at Beverly Hills High School. Spencer denies the offer at first, but then decides to take the leap into a whole new environment to fulfill his football dream. Throughout the show, Spencer faces the difficulty of the new lavish life of Beverly Hills, versus his home back in Crenshaw. The two worlds are displayed and explored deeply in the series. This gives the audience a view into how it feels to be a fish out of water.

Where to Stream Netflix
Rating TV-14
Notable Actors Daniel Ezra, Taye Diggs
Seasons & Episodes currently 2 seasons, 32 episodes
Favorite Episode ”Life Goes On”

 

Story by Meghana Mohankumar

The Flash

Yellow lightning crackles, a man zooms by so fast you can barely see him. Who is it? He’s the fastest man alive, and his name is Barry Allen [Grant Gustin]. Barry Allen’s mother was killed when he was 11 years old. The police arrested his father for her murder. Years later, STAR Labs creates the particle accelerator, but something goes wrong a freak storm is created and lightning hits Barry. Nine months later, Barry wakes up from a coma with superspeed. He decides to use his powers to stop crime, creating the Flash. With the help of Harrison Wells [Tom Cavanagh], Cisco Ramon [Carlos Valdes]. and Caitlin Snow [Danielle Panabaker], Barry forms Team Flash.The Flash is a unique show with its ability to mix comedy, family, love, friendship, darkness, and pain. The show explores the complexities of relationships and the importance of one’s actions. The writing in this show is phenomenal, the storylines are detailed and every single action that is made plays an important role in the overall. I think this show has something to offer to everyone, I never was a fan of superheroes, but it quickly became one of my favorite shows. The Flash is in the middle of its sixth season, episodes air every Tuesday on the CW.

Where to Stream Netflix, The CW
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh
Seasons & Episodes 6 seasons and 129 episodes
Favorite Episode “The Man in the Yellow Suit”

 

Story by Aidan Graef

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a riveting post-apocalyptic masterpiece that draws the audience in with every second that passes. Viewers watch as a group of survivors led by Rick Grimes travel their way through the harsh environment overrun by undead “Walkers,” or zombies, as we call them. The Walking Dead is not for the faint of heart; more than once I have wanted to look away as characters have to do unspeakable things to survive in this new world. With 10 seasons and more to come, The Walking Dead will have you fascinated for hours and wishing season 11 was already here. 

Where to Stream  Netflix
Age Rating TV-MA
Notable Actors in the Show Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus
Seasons & Episodes  10 seasons and 146 episodes
Favorite Episode “Better Angels”

 

Story by Claire Furmall

Virgin River

If you have some free time on your hands, and are looking to find a new show on Netflix I know just the one for you! Virgin River. Virgin River is about a big city doctor, Mel, from California that moves to a small town up north to help the main doctor there. Upon arriving, she doesn’t quite blend well with Doc Mullins. He tells her that he doesn’t need any help and doesn’t want her there. Crushed, she then goes to the community bar where she meets Jack. He comforts her, and is sweet, and he welcomes her to Virgin River. She develops feelings for him, but finds out that he has a girlfriend and she’s not sure she wants to begin a “new life” here. Meanwhile, Doc Mullins gives her a trial period so that she can prove herself and display that she has what it takes to be a good doctor. Mel is loved by everyone in the town except Doc Mullins. But, as much as Mel wants to start over here, her sister calls from Los Angeles. She wants Mel to come home. Can she prove herself and show that she is worthy? Or will she come home with a crushed spirit? 

Where to stream: Netflix
Age rating: TV-!4
Notable actors in the show: Alexandra Breckenridge, Martin Henderson, Tim Matheson
Seasons and Episodes: 1 season, 10 episodes
Favorite Episode: “Under Fire”

 

Story by Kennedy Page 

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone is a classic and incredibly binge worthy television series. The iconic opening and narration by Rod Serling laying out the story begins every episode. Each is a different look into new characters dealing with something disturbing or unusual in their lives as they enter a dimension dubbed The Twilight Zone. At the end there’s usually a moral, but sometimes there’s a surprise ending with no moral at all. It’s fairly slow paced, but easy to watch and pay attention to. No episode is like the other and the writing is fairly unpredictable. This series is abundant in episodes, has interesting stories to tell, will keep you on your toes, and gives you something new at the end of each episode – so binging is no problem. 

Where to Stream Netflix, Hulu, CBS, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes, and Vudu
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Rod Serling, Robert Redford, Carol Burnett
Seasons & Episodes 5 seasons and 156 episodes
Favorite Episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”

10 more binge-worthy shows to stream during this pandemic

Story by Rachel Bowling

The minutes feel like hours as the stay-at-home order drawls on and on. With endless time on our hands, we’ve turned to many different sources to entertain ourselves, television being one of the most widely used. But sometimes, the search for a proper bingeable TV show feels like the endless search for the Holy Grail. So, here are my top 10 most binge-worthy shows to watch. 

#10. Stranger Things

Science fiction meets 80s thriller in this spectacular Netflix series. The world was taken aback when this show was released in the summer of 2016. Everyone was astonished by its individuality. The first episode takes us to 1983 Hawkins, Indiana, where Will Byers mysteriously vanishes on his way home from a game of Dungeons and Dragons with his friends. When his family and friends start to dig a little deeper into his disappearance, they discover that their sleepy little town of Hawkins is not all that it seems. 

Where to Stream Netflix
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown
Seasons and Episodes  3 seasons, 25 episodes
Favorite Episode The Battle of Starcourt

 

#9. Murder, She Wrote

This show follows Jessica Fletcher, a notable mystery writer with a few tricks of her own. Every episode, Fletcher is thrown into a real-life crime in which the police have no leads on the killer. And although she is just a mystery writer, Fletcher is very easily able to solve each crime because of her amazing skills of deduction. She always catches the bad guy in the end, however, the show is wonderfully unpredictable. Murder, She Wrote is a fresh spin on the classic whodunnit that we all know and love. 

Where to Stream Amazon Prime
Age Rating TV-PG
Notable Actors in the Show Angela Lansbury
Seasons and Episodes  12 seasons, 264 episodes
Favorite Episode The Sins of Castle Cove

 

#8. Downton Abbey

This period piece is set in early 1900s England at the Downton Abbey Estate. It showcases the Crawley family, a very wealthy and well respected group among the people. But, with wealth comes its misfortunes, and nothing is ever as it seems on the outside. Downton Abbey also shows the interaction between the Crawleys and their staff, and the various bonds they form. The viewer is pulled in by the spectacular acting and emotion in this show, and they won’t want to stop watching as the plethora of scandals unravel before their eyes. 

Where to Stream Amazon Prime
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Phyllis Logan
Seasons and Episodes  6 seasons, 52 episodes
Favorite Episode Season 3, Episode 5

 

#7. Psych

Shawn Spencer is thrown into the heat of the action when he accidentally stumbles upon an active crime scene. Wanting to help solve it, but knowing the police won’t trust him without good reason, he comes up with an elaborate lie, telling the Santa Barbara Police that he is a psychic. And while that is a lie, he manages to convince them because of his unique crime-solving skills. Spencer does such a spectacular job of cracking the cases that eventually the police department hires him as a third-party psychic detective. The only one who knows the truth is his best friend, Gus, who eventually comes to help Spencer in various ways. And while the show revolves around murder, it always keeps a light and comical tone. 

Where to Stream Hulu
Age Rating TV-PG
Notable Actors in the Show James Roday, Dulé Hill, Maggie Lawson
Seasons and Episodes  8 seasons, 120 episodes
Favorite Episode Heeeeere’s Lassie

 

#6. Doctor Who

Doctor Who is about as sci-fi as a series can get, being that it literally revolves around an alien who travels from planet to planet helping others with their various misfortunes. However, this alien looks and acts just like any other human, and he intends to keep it that way. And he doesn’t ever do it alone. Any time you see him, he’ll always have a human companion at his side. And although he is widely known throughout the universe, no one knows his name. They only call him the Doctor.

Where to Stream Amazon Prime
Age Rating TV-PG
Notable Actors in the Show David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan
Seasons and Episodes  12 seasons, 851 episodes
Favorite Episode The Waters of Mars

 

#5. Gilmore Girls

This series follows Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, a mother-daughter duo who navigate the jungle of new relationships, new adventures, and everything in between. However, there is one thing that sets this family apart from all the rest. Lorelei had Rory when she was only 16. Cut off by her parents, Lorelei had to grow up and grow up fast in order to raise her newborn child. When she is forced to reconcile with her estranged parents 16 years later, Lorelei finds giving them a second chance one of the hardest things she’ll ever do. 

Where to Stream Netflix
Age Rating TV-PG
Notable Actors in the Show Lauren Graham, Scott Patterson
Seasons and Episodes  7 seasons, 153 episodes
Favorite Episode Raincoats and Recipes

 

#4. Parks and Recreation

Leslie Knope is a big fish in a small pond. All she ever wants to do is help her town, Pawnee, and more often than not, she’s faced with backlash and incompetence. And although she’s usually in over her head, her heart is always in the right place. When Leslie is given a massive opportunity to help the people, she must deal with an uncooperative town and a lazy parks and recreation department. And, as you can imagine, hilarity ensues. 

Where to Stream Netflix
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman
Seasons and Episodes  7 seasons, 125 episodes 
Favorite Episode I love you and I like you

 

#3. The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls is a timeless classic that follows four best friends, all living together in Miami in the late 80’s. The viewer can’t help but laugh as these old broads live their drama-filled lives, chock-full of hilarity and cheesecake. The Golden Girls has gotten many awards, including 58 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, and 11 wins. This iconic series will have you laughing right until the credits, and wish you were in 1985 Miami laughing right along with the leading ladies. 

Where to Stream Hulu
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Betty White, Rue McClanahan
Seasons and Episodes  7 seasons, 180 episodes
Favorite Episode Golden Moments, Part 1 and 2

 

#2. The Office

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at your local paper company? Well, wonder no more, for I have the show for you. The Office revolves around Dunder Mifflin, a small-town paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And although that may not sound very eventful, the staff of Dunder Mifflin will assure your otherwise. The Office shines a new light on slapstick comedy and awkward humor while navigating office friendships, romances, feuds, and the like. 

Where to Stream Netflix
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Steve Carell, John Krasinski
Seasons and Episodes  9 seasons, 201 episodes
Favorite Episode A.A.R.M.

 

#1. Bones

This show is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the classic cop show. We all know the story. Bad guy commits a crime, and the police put him in jail. But Bones brings an entirely new perspective to the table. Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan teams up with the FBI to solve various murders with her astonishing intellect and her cognitive skills. The series shows us the science side of the FBI, and gives us an inside look at the inner-workings of catching the murderer. 

Where to Stream Hulu
Age Rating TV-14
Notable Actors in the Show Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz
Seasons and Episodes  12 seasons, 246 episodes
Favorite Episode The Master in the Slop

 

Dead Poets Society proves to remain relevant

Story by Meghana Mohankumar

“O Captain! My Captain!”

This famous line was written in a poem by Walt Whitman about the death of Abraham Lincoln. However, it also plays an iconic role in the book Dead Poets Society, written by Nancy H. Kleinbaum.

The first time I picked up this book I thought the beginning was slow and it was hard to remember who all of the characters were, but after the introductions, this book takes a turn for the better.

Dead Poets Society is set in a prestigious all-boys boarding school called Welton Academy. The school takes pride in its successful students who get accepted into Ivy League schools. According to the headmaster, Gale Nolan, the key to success at Welton Academy involves four pillars: tradition, honor, discipline, and excellence. 

The book starts slowly by introducing all of the characters. The main character, Todd Anderson, is the shy new kid. Almost everyone at the school seems to have their whole life planned by their parents. Even when it comes to decisions as simple as extracurriculars, these boys do not have any say in what they do.

Then, John Keating is hired as the new English teacher. Keating changes the way the boys think about their entire lives. Unlike the other teachers at Welton Academy, Keating uses unconventional methods like ripping pages out of the textbooks and having the students call him “O Captain! My Captain!” to show them that language is a powerful tool and the importance of being able to express themselves through words. 

The boys then find out that Keating used to be a student at Welton Academy and that he used to be a part of the Dead Poets Society. This was a group of students who would meet in a nearby cave to read poetry. So, the boys decide to restart the Dead Poets Society. They use Keating’s lessons to discover who they truly are and what they are passionate about.

This book is filled with several surprises and twists. Some find love while others find themselves. The last half of the book is filled with challenges the boys must face and a bittersweet ending.

Kleinbaum’s writing makes the reader understand the pressure the boys feel. Her descriptive language shows you how passionate the characters are.

The Dead Poets Society teaches you to appreciate the beauty of life and emotion. While poetry has never been an interest of mine, this book teaches you to love poetry and to enjoy it. The Dead Poets Society relates to younger audiences by discussing the pressure students feel when it comes to their future and how to truly live. What I loved most about this book was how inspirational it was. It made me rethink everything. Keating does not only teach the students at Welton Academy, but he also teaches the reader when he whispers, “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Quotes like these make the Dead Poets Society an inspirational book that can relate to so many people around the world.

Report Card:

Author- Nancy H. Kleinbaum

Published in 1988

Pages- 176

Based on the script for the movie written by Tom Schulman starring Robin Williams

Grade: A

Age rating: PG

Dream in Motion Further Solidifies Underground Admiration

By Daniel Anderson

Carving out a niche is one thing for an artist, but being described as quintessential to the formation of a movement is a far rarer title.

 If one were to ask anyone involved in a music scene who are what was the foundation for a certain style, genre, or movement, the answers may be varied, but still might revolve around some commonality, sometimes around certain people. For instance, if one were to ask who the face of post-punk is, band names like Joy Division, Television and Wire will inevitably emerge, but names and faces such as Ian Curtis remain correspondent.

As for a more gruff example, ask who is the face of sludge metal, and bands will be thrown about, but if there is one universal constant in the genre, it is Kirk Windstein.

Emerging from the aftermath of the unfortunate suicide of guitarist Mike Hatch, Kirk and his synonymous band Crowbar (formerly known as Shell Shock, Wrequiem and The Slugs) began fusing their previous style of pulverizing hardcore punk and crossover thrash with the glacial, ominous tempo of doom metal to pioneer what is now known as sludge metal.

From about 1991 onwards, Crowbar made a name for themselves in the underground with their newfound, punishing mixture. At that point, the band had already received stylistic company from fellow Louisiana-based groups like Acid Bath and Eyehategod, as well as from farther distances with bands like the Melvins, Neurosis and Corrosion of Conformity. Thus was formed, the foundation of sludge.

Seemingly always a figurehead of the genre, Windstein has spent the past 30 years under consistent admiration from underground metal audiences. Be it with Crowbar or any other of his projects, like the sludge supergroup Down (which includes Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo, whom Windstein was a childhood friend of).

Having said all that, there is very little that Windstein needs to prove to the world of metal. And it would seem that he recognizes this on his debut solo effort.

Of course, this record is not without the mainstays in Windstein’s repertoire: the monolithic song tempos and blazing guitar distortion are both still present as per usual. However, these essential elements cannot keep a listener enticed for too long, despite what many bands in the genre unfortunately seem to believe.

Sheer ferocity is not the centerpiece of this record, rather, it is secondary, even dialed back to let the more melodic elements shine through. The riffs and various guitar lines are as savory and infectious as ever (at times they even sound like they were pulled from the Trouble playbook). And though Windstein still utilizes his usual, raspy approach to vocals, this time around the grittiness is kept at a bare minimum to make way for his more intimate side.

This makes perfect sense, as this set of tracks is definitely more emotionally intimate than the standard Down or Crowbar record (which is saying something, since nearly every project he’s been involved with has been emotionally driven).

Lyrically and conceptually, there also seems to be a bit of a divide between Windstein’s other endeavors, as unlike many of his past works, the emotions on display are not a complete, blunt-force serving of “Existence is Punishment.” Rather, this record is a dual display of Windstein’s positive and negative psyche, with the former being seemingly favored most of the time.

Such is the case for the opening title track, a sentimental piece revolving around his journey throughout his music career, looking back at his faults and carrying forward, “A song of hope / A burning mind /Unleashing strength / From deep inside / The will to fight / To carry on / Within my heart / It’s never ever gone.”

Of course that is not to say that his pessimistic side does not show itself, as tracks such as “Hollow Dying Man” and “The Ugly Truth” go to show.

While I do appreciate Kirk’s themes of perseverance and contrasting doubt, some the tracks unfortunately feel a bit one-dimensional as a result. The variations between riffs and composition do not feel very apparent, almost as if they are merely window dressing. I could arrange them tracks on this record in a myriad of ways and the flow would still remain similar.

Speaking of which, the closing track, a cover of Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung,” while a decent cut on its own (even adding to the themes of resolve through desperation), does not function well as a conclusion to the record. Had it been left as a bonus track or something of the sort, then perhaps the album’s pace would have more room to breathe.

Not to mention, the production left a little to be desired for me. Again, I do admire the way the heaviness is left more to the side to let the emotional qualities in the tracks through, but there could have been at least another slight amount of grit added; perhaps some of the moodier tracks could do with some more distortion.

Nevertheless, I found this solo endeavor to be quite endearing. I imagine Windstein did not set out to make this record the next Odd Fellows Rest, nor did it have to be.

Dream in Motion is most clearly meant to be a love letter to his fans and supporters; those who have given him the strength to get past his demons. To sludge fans from the Pelican State and beyond: this one is for you.

Standout Tracks: “Dream in Motion,” “The World You Know,” “Necropolis”

Verdict: 7/10

Tracklist:

  1. Dream in Motion
  2. Hollow Dying Man
  3. Once Again
  4. Enemy in Disguise
  5. The World You Know
  6. Toxic
  7. The Healing
  8. Necropolis
  9. The Ugly Truth
  10.  Aqualung

Link to album: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mnLDpx9LlmPTmHRDwgbpyGS5VmE-z7pcg 

A Return to the Crimson King’s Court

By Daniel Anderson

It was supposed to be a day of remembrance, of mourning. I suppose it is true what they say: with death comes new life.

On July 5, 1969, more than 500,000 attendees gathered at London’s Hyde Park to see The Rolling Stones play live after a two-year concert hiatus, and only two days after guitarist Brian Jones had fallen. What preceded their act, however, was something that almost no one had anticipated.

Opening for them was a band that the majority of the audience had never heard of up until that point; they had not even released a single record. As they viscerally and furiously play on, there is applause for sure, yet most attendees had no idea of what to make of them.

And to think, just months earlier, that same band had merely been playing for local pubs.

All of it started with just three young men: Micheal and Peter Giles and Robert Fripp, the latter of which was the brains of the operation. Together, these three brought together a myriad of musical influences ranging from blues, contemporary pop and jazz.

This incarnation was short-lived as Peter soon bailed, leaving Michael and Fripp with guitar and drumsticks in hand, but no direction to take.

That is, until they were lent a few hands from lyricist Peter Sinfield, vocalist and bassist Greg Lake, and multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald.

On January 13 1969, the group held their first rehearsal, and thus was born King Crimson.

The band’s name, coined by Sinfield, was not thought of as an allusion to Beezelbub or any demonic figure for that matter, but rather as a term used to describe tyrannical rulers or monarchs. As he jokingly put it, “Anything was better than Giles, Giles, and Fripp. King Crimson had arrogance to it.”

Regardless of however you interpret it, the name matches the sound of the band down to a tee. Simply put, nothing else sounded quite like them.

Now, that is not to say there weren’t other artists who played and in a similar vein. Contemporaries such as Yes, Soft Machine and Jethro Tull had all previously began indulging in fusion and experimentation of psychedelic rock, blues, jazz and classical elements and theory to form what we now know as progressive rock.

But there was an essence that made King Crimson truly emerge from the rest of the pack. One key element lies in the angst of their music. The band had a tendency to play far more aggressively and unpredictably in comparison to their peers.

This was especially the case for their live performances, as Fripp and company could go from deafeningly loud and abrasive in one minute, to subdued and atmospheric in another. Polarized, often quiet audiences were commonplace throughout the first few months of their careers— until that fateful day in Hyde Park.

With a sudden twist of fate, King Crimson almost immediately became hot property. Soon enough, they were signed to both Island and Atlantic, two of the biggest labels in the entire music industry, for U.K and American distribution respectively.

And with their new deal, King Crimson were primed and ready to release what they already had concocted earlier that year. On October 10th, 1969, the band’s full-length debut was unveiled: In the Court of the Crimson King.

Stiff is not enough of a word to describe the competition that this album faced, as it was a time directly in between the releases of both the Beatles’ and Led Zeppelin’s seminal records Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin II. Despite being at the crossroads of music history, the album sold quite well for a debut, charting at No. 5 on the U.K. Albums Chart and No. 28 on the U.S. Billboard 200.

It should be worth noting that it was met with mixed critical reception upon release. Looking back, I guess that would be a somewhat fitting entrance for King Crimson. When compared to most records popular at that time, In the Court of the Crimson King sticks out like a sore thumb, both in sound and attitude. 

That immediately becomes apparent with the iconic opening track “21st Century Schizoid Man” (which, to me, still remains one of the coolest song titles ever). After an eerie, wind-swept intro, the listener is met with a torrent of pummeling, distorted guitars, drums and ascending saxophone leads. Around the two-minute mark, the instrumental switches to a fast-paced section of sporadic guitar solos and manic drum fills before it eventually returns to the previous section.

Meanwhile, Lake viciously belts out lyrics of a mad, dystopian world, “Blood rack, barbed wire / Politician’s funeral pyre / Innocents raped with napalm fire / Twenty-first century schizoid man.”

The pessimistic nature of both the lyrics and instrumentals are quite a blatant contrast to anything “peace-and-love” related in psychedelic music at the time. So much so that this track is often referred to as an early example metal music (mind you, artists like Black Sabbath and Budgie had not yet burst onto the scene at that time).

However, the album’s nature soon performs a 180° spin with the following track, “I Talk to the Wind.” As previously stated, the band knew how to transition sonically from one area to another, and this track exemplifies that flawlessly. Immediately following the mayhem of the track prior, we are then thrust into a serene environment with McDonald serenading listeners with his masterful flute skills.

Instead of a menacing snarl glazed with distorted post-effects, Lake greets our ears with a soft-spoken and far more melodic voice as the lush instrumentals compliment him in the mix.

It should be worth noting that, despite how many pretty bells and whistles that are presented (such as McDonald’s astounding flute solos), Sinfield’s lyricism still convey the essence of a fearful world. Here, they seem to portray a man who is questioning his faith in the world around him, “I’m on the outside, looking inside / What do I see? / Much confusion, disillusion / All around me.”

With this in mind, an elephant in the room remains: the reason for such lyrical and sonic pessimism. Thankfully, considering the time in which this record was released, context becomes easy to piece together. The year 1969 was in the midst of a tumultuous era for global affairs— most notably the height of the Cold War and the Vietnam Campaign.

It would only make sense for a group such as King Crimson to reflect the ever-present darkness in the world around them. And that darkness is unfurled in all its glory with the third track “Epitaph.”

Following a brief drumroll emerging from the fade of the previous track, “Epitaph” emerges with an awe-inspiring soundscape of grandiose, apical proportions. All throughout, there are acoustic guitars (both gently picked and monstrously strummed), varying drum fills and woodwinds accompany Lake’s desperate vocals and Sinfield’s apocalyptic lyrics. Each of these elements are as doom-laden as the other, “When every man is torn apart / With nightmares and with dreams / Will no one lay the laurel wreath / When silence drowns the screams?”

But most important of all, this track heavily implements use of a mellotron: a device which would come to define not only this band, but most of the prog rock genre in general.

Oftentimes cited as a precursor to the modern synthesizer, this key instrument, when played, will give off sounds akin to orchestral samples. This would allow songs with its inclusion to have an almost symphonic appearance.

During production of this album, McDonald spent much of his time overdubbing layers upon layers of mellotron recordings, so its presence would always be unmistakable. His efforts become front-and-center on “Epitaph” as the mellotron swallows the mix and elevates the track to cataclysmic levels, especially during the crescendo towards the last minute-and-a-half. 

Many have tried to emulate the feeling of the end of days that this track presents, some have even come remarkably close (namely artists like Sunn O))) and Godspeed You! Black Emperor). Still, I find that, for lack of a better description, the bleak and paranoid atmosphere achieved in this song has yet to be replicated.

But alas, we then recede once more to a softer place with the proceeding track “Moonchild.” Easily the quietest, most reserved song in the tracklist, Giles’ percussion (mostly cymbals) takes up most of the space in the mix as McDonald’s woodwinds and mellotron eerily linger in the background. Meanwhile, Lake gently sings the most abstract lyrics on the album; they wonderfully compliment the track’s tone of isolation “Sailing on the wind in a milk-white gown / Dropping circle stones on a sundial / Playing hide-and-seek with the ghosts of dawn / Waiting for a smile from a sun child.”

This goes on for about two minutes before the song transitions into a bizarre, 10-minute free improv session. The band members seemingly take turns, either one after the other or occasionally contrasting, playing whatever instrument they have in hand without any specific time signature or meter. Perhaps it is filler, but that is something I can easily overlook, as this band was known for doing these sorts of things— both in-studio and in live settings.

Once the track abruptly ends, we at last arrive at the iconic closer: the title track. King Crimson truly pulls out all the stops here, combining just about every element that made all the previous tracks so memorable. You name it, this song has it: unbelievable drum fills from Giles, McDonald’s majestic flute soloing and overpowering mellotron, Fripp’s acoustic guitar appearing gargantuan in the mix, and of course, Lake’s imposing vocals and bass work.

The lyrics, while surreal once more, point in a far more sinister direction, reminiscent of the dystopian themes inspired by the backdrop of Vietnam, “The yellow jester does not play, but gently pulls the strings / And smiles as the puppets dance in the court of the crimson king.”

Once the track seemingly ends around the seven-minute mark, McDonald mysteriously and subtly starts playing his flute and mellotron once more. All of the sudden, the drums come back and we are met with a grand instrumental reprise of the chorus melody. The mellotron here is just as powerful as it was on “Epitaph” as each member gives it their all, especially Giles as he mercilessly pounds the drum heads to a pulp. I could not ask for a better curtaincall if I tried.

Thus concludes an undisputed musical epic, all within a timespan under 50 minutes.

What a shame that these men did not follow through with any projects together. After disputes revolving around the band’s creative direction, the members of King Crimson split up. Ever since then, this band has gone through a plethora of lineup changes; Fripp has remained the only constant member.

On the other hand, the legacy left behind by this group is practically immortal by now. Several of its members go on to have successful careers (most notably Greg Lake taking part in fellow seminal prog rock act Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Ian McDonald in Foreigner) but the amount of influence that this record alone holds on future acts is absolutely staggering.

King Crimson have gone on to inspire artists in a vast array of genres. From later prog acts like Rush, Tool and Porcupine Tree, to modern psychedelia like The Flaming Lips, punk groups like Bad Religion (the band’s own record label, Epitaph, is named after the song of the same title), to metal, as previously mentioned (especially bands like Mastodon, Voivod, Yob, Opeth, Neurosis, etc.), and even genres as far reaching as noise (namely Merzbow).

Not only that, but this band and record have somehow managed to find ways of staying relevant outside the music realm. Several memes have been and are still being made across the internet in light of King Crimson. Perhaps the most popular of all is a niche trend called “getting Fripp’d” where Youtube users upload videos containing audio clips and samples from King Crimson’s discography (especially from In the Court of the Crimson King), only for others to comment on how long it takes before Fripp’s label takes the video down.

Considering how poignant the rigorous and colorful compositions and lyrical themes of a fearful world still remain, I suppose all of this should not be very surprising. But once I look back and compare this album to whatever else was hip at the time, I can’t help but sit back and smile at how long it has stayed fresh.  

The fact that an album now over half a century old can still be embraced by far younger generations should serve as a testament to the longevity of this band and album. Not even fine wine ages that well.

Here’s to another 50 years of sonic magnificence, and counting.

Link to Album: https://open.spotify.com/album/5wec5BciMpDMzlEFpYeHse?si=KWbFGSaISCO1FofZjV1ZVA

Link to Hyde Park Concert:

https://youtu.be/MM_G0IRLEx4

Tracklist

  1. 21st Century Schizoid Man
  2. I Talk to the Wind
  3. Epitaph
  4. Moonchild
  5. The Court of the Crimson King