In June 1982, King Crimson followed Discipline with Beat (the first King Crimson album recorded with the same band line-up as the album preceding it). None of the members of the group produced the record; Davies undertook production duties himself. The album had a loosely linked theme of the Beat Generation and its writings, reflected in song titles such as "Neal and Jack and Me" (inspired by Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac), "The Howler" (inspired by Allan Ginsberg's "Howl") and "Sartori in Tangier" (inspired by Paul Bowles). Fripp asked Belew to read Kerouac's novel On the Road for inspiration, and the album contained themes of travel, disorientation and loneliness. While the album was noticeably poppier than Discipline, it featured the harsh, atonal and improvised "Requiem".
Recording Beat was faced with tension with Belew suffering high stress levels over his duties as front man, lead singer, and principal songwriter. On one occasion, he clashed with Fripp and ordered him out of the studio. After differences were resolved, and while Beat reached No. 39 in the UK and No. 52 in the US, King Crimson resumed touring. "Heartbeat" was released as a single which peaked at No. 57 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Around this time the band released the VHS-only '"The Noise: Live in Frejus" (DGMVC2), a record of a show played at the Arena, Frejus, France on August 27, 1982. (This video is now on DVD as part of the compilation Neal and Jack and Me.)
King Crimson's next album, Three of a Perfect Pair, was recorded in 1983 and released in March 1984. Having encountered difficulty in both writing and determining a direction for the album, the band chose to record and sequence it as a "left side" — four of the band's poppier songs plus an instrumental — and a "right side" (experimental work including extended and atonal improvisations in the tradition of the mid-1970s band, plus as the third part of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic"). Three of a Perfect Pair peaked at No. 30 in the UK and No. 58 in the US, with "Three of a Perfect Pair" and "Sleepless" being released as singles. The 2001 remaster of the album included "the other side", a collection of remixes and improvisation out-takes plus Levin's tongue-in-cheek vocal piece, "The King Crimson Barbershop". The last concert of the Three of a Perfect Pair tour, at the Spectrum in Montreal, Canada on 11 July 1984, was recorded and released in 1998 as Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal.