This is the album that defines the "before and after" for the Fripp-style musicianship that so many people love, and so many alt-rock groups have tried (sometimes successfully) to replicate. Rhythmic patterns, guitar play, Belews's Talking-Heads-influenced outpouring (Brian Eno had earlier produced "Remain in Light", an album that is the mirror image of this one, where Belew did great work), layers and layers of guitar and pseudo-guitar, Tony just being there with the right note, Bill hitting the drums as if the Final Judgment had just sent a summons.
This is as close to perfection as anything that came out in the early 1980s. Better than everything Crimson did in the 1970s, which is a high bar already, and pretty much anticipating much of what was to come. "Beat" and "Three of a Perfect Pair" are great but never as good as this one.
With the entire British scene having fallen to pieces in the wake of punk, reggae, Elvis Costello, and that empty feeling of not being able to replace greatness (Led Zep, Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, The Who, The Stones, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck: none of them was getting any younger) with pretensions (not just a pun about The Pretenders... U2 anybody? Duran Duran?), this album is a pretty lonely gem for its time.
Yet it is not for everybody though. For people who need neat melodies and comforting harmonies, satisfaction may come at too big of an expense. For the thinking person, this record is maybe the greatest achievement of its decade.