Show # 222 December 22nd, 1999
The Discovery of the week:
FRENCH TV / The Violence of Amateurs
French TV is a band you can count on.
Now with six albums under their belt, this band from Louisville,
Kentucky, embodies the progressive "DIY” 1 way of life. I really like
them, especially their live CD "Yoo-Hoo" , but I would have never thought possible for them to record such a masterpiece as The Violence of Amateurs. French TV is mostly bassist Mike Sary and guitarist Dean Zigoris. John Robinson (keyboards) completes the band's nucleus, around which numerous other musicians revolve: drummers Bob Douglas, Brian Donohoe (of Volare) and Chris Vincent, flutist and saxophonist Greg Acker, keyboardist Jon Encifer and violinist Cathy Moeller. Even Eugene Chadbourne sits in for one of his trademark banjo runs on the opening track. The Violence of Amateurs kicks in with "The Kokonino Stomp", a dance suited for epileptics with diarrhea. In a little less than five minutes, French TV says more than all of Genesis' records together. This track is all over the place: the craziest stomping rhythm, constantly changing, and an angular melody line that is actually catchy. "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle” is even worse (or better). Held together by a mood coming from old detective series, this piece is a sound orgy going from swing to circus music to cartoon music. "The Odessa Steps Sequence” gives the listener a pause while bringing us back to a more straightforward prog (well, it is the most straight forward track). A rendition of Volare's track (featuring their drummer Brain Donohoe), "....Odessa...” transcends the original recording and pushes this tune one step further. "Mail Order Quarks” starts like a fusion ballade but quickly turns into a fusion-esque Hawkwind drive or something like that. "Tiger Tea” takes a dive into calypso music, for 90 seconds or so, and then takes a progressive left turn, the first of a long series of strange mutations. The album closes with a 22 minute rendition of the Samla Mammas Manna's classic song "Joosan Lost/The Fate” (also known as Odet), a masterpiece on its own and a flamboyant interpretation.This record is nothing less than sublime and embodies everything avant-prog is about : complex, singular, funny and subversive. As with all French TV releases, the booklet contains statistics on American military expenses. As a bonus, we are treated with an anticipated novel in which French TV is the hit band of the hour and young beautiful women ride In Jeeps listening to Magma's "Attahk". Heaven on Earth, just like this record. My highest recommendation.
© 1999 Francois Couture, All Rights Reserved ; Delire Musical, CFLX Radio, 95.5 Sherbrooke, QUEBECFRENCH TV / The Violence of Amateurs (Pretentious Dinosaur)Really excellent and enjoyable album not exclusively for RIO & AVANT PROG
fans (4 1/2 stars)!
This album by US Band French TV is one of the most enjoyable and funny RIO albums
I've ever listened (many thanks to Diddy for providing this one to me). You realize
immediately that bass player Mike Sary and the musicians he gathered around
him love Progressive Rock but instead of taking it completely serious they're
dealing with this music genre showing an incredible amount of humour. Although the mix
of styles is at times really adventurous
bringing a bit of Mr. Bungle (whose music I usually don't enjoy that much BTW) into one's mind, the degree of oddity and weirdness
never reaches an unbearable level.
The opener The Kokonino Stomp is already the best example for their funny
humour, groovy disrupted jazz lines on guitar and sax combined with strange keyboard
sounds like ringing, tooting etc., then a solo on banjo and bar piano sound before they
include a short funny nonsense vocal part. Really a stunningly great piece. Next
highlight The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle starts with an oddly whistled marsh
and continues with an awesome mix of jazz and hardrock having some strange sounds
in between like barking and yowling. Then some encore after the question "Are you
ready for more music?". Just great and although it's quite weird stuff it's still rather
accessible. The Odessa Steps Sequence is the first of two cover songs
they've included here. Originally played by the band Volare whose drummer Brian
Donahue is playing on here in two tracks as well, it's actually the only one on this
album in a conventional prog vein, but not without offering some quite intricate music
especially in its second part. As well a fantastic track and a welcome break from
weirdness. Next one Mail Order Quarks is more a soft and pending jazz rock
piece with sax in its first part and acoustic guitar, flute, vibes, violin and percussion in
its second one. Initially a very nice and dreamy one but with an excellent progression
towards its end. Very nice one but now it's time to come back to some more crazy stuff
with Tiger Tea starting with some Caribbean feeling and overall in a similar
vein as the second track, an odd, funny and jazzy piece. Joosan Lost/The
Fate is the second cover song taken from Swedish band Zamla Mammas
Manna but perfectly adapted to their typical style and lasting more than 20
minutes. This one starts with a funny tango-alike sound that segues slowly into a
lengthy part filled with a fiercely performed accumulation of all kind of free form music
with spacey sounds before it returns to the initial theme. Another highlight of this great
As a SUMMARY I can say that The Violence Of Amateurs is an
absolute excellent RIO album showing great musicianship. I'm almost seduced rating it
with 5 stars, but since not all the compositions are originally by them, it would be
overrated. Anyway an excellent addition to any prog collection and I'm giving it 4,5
----Dieter Fischer, Progressive Archives
**** FOUR STARS! French TV play the kind of transatlantic Canterbury fusion that the Muffins did so well back
in the 70s, although their music has a harder edge to go with the quirky humour. The
Violence of Amateurs is the first thing I've heard by this band, and impressive stuff it is too.
The first track almost put me off - The Kokonino Stomp is almost willfully bizarre, with
enough ideas for a double album crammed into less than 5 minutes. Just when you think
they've thrown in everything, mad axeman Eugene Chadourne weighs in with a demented
banjo/barrelhouse piano duel. This kind of wackiness goes with the territory, of course,
but somehow this irritates more than it amuses (though to be fair it may grow on me).
Thankfully, after that the album settles down a bit into a series of long-ish, thoughtful
pieces which still take unexpected twists and turns but achieve more than simply showing
off the band's impressive chops. The false ending gag on the second track is a great
example of how to incorporate off beat humour into serious music - in lesser hands it
would be infuriating after the first couple of listens, but French TV make it integral to the
composition so that it actually adds to the music, and it must be a knockout on stage. Mail
Order Quarks recalls tracks like Amygdala by Henry Cow - deceptively laid back and
simple, but with something happening in every single bar of music and the soloists playing
with emotion as well as highly advanced technique. Two of the pieces are cover
versions - The Odessa Steps Sequence was originally by Volare and is a bit more
straightforward than a lot of the other tracks (I'm not familiar with the original, but as one of
Volare is a guest on this track I assume it's a good version). Joosan Lost/The Fate is a
Zammla Mammas Manna piece, originally a 17 minute side long epic and also a concert
favourite. Rather like the Dead's Dark Star, it was a jumping off point for improv and soloing
and was never the same 2 gigs running. French TV stay faithful to the spirit of the original,
with familiar themes but very much their own take on it, more of a re interpretation than a
cover version. Splendid stuff, and I'd imagine Lars Hollmer and co approved.
Despite the self conscious wackiness in a couple of places, The Violence of Amateurs is
a fine example of Canterbury/RIO/avant prog tomfoolery and is a good example of
challenging music that doesn't take itself too seriously
----Chris Gleeson, PROGRESSIVE ARCHIVES
Mike Sary(bass player) is the one member who has been with this band
from the beginning.Yes,you could say this is his band.You
have to read his liner notes.Some of the funniest stuff i have read.The
music seems to sample many genres,and at times it's just a
taste that we get before they move on to something else.No this isn't
for everybody,it helps to be a little off center.
"The Kokonino Stomp" opens with horns that bring to mind the "Big band"
era.A lot of quick stop and go moments.Flute then comes in
bringing a stable calm.At this point I'm saying "please don't leave
me",but the flute leaves anyway as we get more crazy passages.A
banjo solo,some ragtime piano,and a swinging band sound that could have
come from the thirties.A brief vocal melody only adds to
the lunacy.That flute does come back though. "The Secret Life Of Walter
Riddle" opens with people whistling like they are going off
to work.Hmmm.A good rhythm follows.Some great guitar 3 minutes in that
goes on and on.Around 5 minutes we get some dissonant
sax sounds.The rhythm returns 6 1/2 minutes in with lots of clarinet and
sax to follow. "The Odessa Steps Sequence" is a cover of a
VOLARE song.Actually VOLARE's drummer plays on this tune.He guests on
the previous song,and he is outstanding on the final track
as well.It opens with some tasteful guitar as synths create a spacey
backdrop.Drums become prominent 3 1/2 minutes in.Nice
sound.A change a minute later as it becomes more uptempo with synths.A
beautiful flute solo arrives.Some blistering guitar after 7
minutes.I really like this song. "Mail Order Quarks" opens with some
wonderfully calm sax melodies.The song changes before 3
minutes as gentle guitar and flute come in.Vibes,light drums,violin and
percussion follow.The song builds with flute leading the
way.The bass is good 8 minutes in.We get back to the original melody 9
1/2 minutes in.Nice.These last two tracks are amazing, and
so different from the first two. "Tiger Tea" opens with drums and then
percussion giving us an island beat.Sax comes in and
bass.The guitar is playing angular notes.Flute later with synths has a
calming effect before it picks back up with drums and sax.The
guitar becomes aggressive.The changes continue to be unrelenting.
"Joosan Lost/The Fate" is a cover of a ZAMLA MAMMAS MANNA
song.This is over 21 minutes in length.If you notice, the songs just
keep getting longer as the album goes on.The beginning of this
track is so catchy.The drums beat away as the guitar seems to sing along
with joy.The song changes 5 1/2 minutes in as it slows
right down,different sounds are coming and going 7 minutes in.Some dark
piano melodies fade in and out.We then a get a
spacey,atmospheric passage that is kind of spooky.Angular guitar starts
to rise out of it with drums in tow.This sounds great!The
guitar and drums start to go ballistic! A tip of the hat to Dean Zigoris
on guitar and Brian Donohoe on drums.The original melody
returns 18 minutes in and it's still very catchy with some scorching
There is a lot of variety on this album to say the least.The first two
songs for me are the most difficult to enjoy,the most challenging
songs.The rest is simply incredible.A solid 4 stars.
----Jon Davie, PROGRESSIVE ARCHIVES
Despite the explicit allusions in the album title, "The Violence of Amateurs" is a work of maturity and
complete cohesion in the impressive French TV catalogue. The sort of musical maturity that the band
had started accomplishing from the "Virtue In Futility" album onwards meets its total fruition in this fifth
studio effort. The time of this album was a period in which the band was reduced to the duo of founding
member Mike Sary and guitarist/keyboardist Dean Zigoris plus a host of talented guests that happen to
be supporting them at the moment. The completion of a kaleidoscopic tracklist such as this, full of agile
moods and enriched with a clever variety makes this album an absolute masterpiece of avant-prog for
the last two decades. It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since its release: it's like an old album
by a truly veteran group.
'The Kokonino Stomp' kicks off the album with exhilarating flying colors,
providing an exciting sequence of motifs in a "big band" framework that screams craziness and genius
at the same time. The RIO and Zappa elements are abundant all throughout this progressive roller
coaster: it includes a circus section with a Dadaist banjo, a be-bop portion with Charleston piano and a
cartoonish tribal percussion/chorale. Enjoy with humor, but don't let the humor block your ears off the
abundant musical genius invested in this piece.
Next comes another extroverted track, 'The Secret Life
of Walter Riddle', whose humorous introductory motif might work as background music for a comic
sketch. Then, the main body is set on a lively rocking pace wrapped in a colorful instrumentation that
features some brass and synth fanfares. There is also room for an amazing guitar solo that finds
Zigoris stating a solid hybrid of Holdsworth and Frith in a hard rock mood (go figure!); there is also
some room for a sick sax solo displayed on a jazzy swing. The piece ends on a Ventures-like note.
After these 12 minutes of prog joy, come the 8 ¾ minutes of 'The Odessa Steps Sequence', the cover
of a Volaré track - in fact, this band's drummer is one of the special guests for French TV here. For this
one, the French TV commune explores its lyrical side (not as common, but consistent anyway). The first
4 ½ minutes are focused on an eerie mixture of symphonic magic and jazzy textures, stating a
framework of contemplative subtlety for the complex melodic development. After that, the piece shifts
toward sources of pomposity, like a "Wakeman-ized" ELP. Afterwards, a more neurotic motif settles in,
featuring what arguably is the most explosive guitar solo in the album.
'Mail Order Quarks' brings the
most moving melodies to the fore, bringing an ethereal atmosphere that may sound related to
Shadowfax, HTM and However's softer facet. Abundantly acoustic, the guitar and soprano sax weave a
soaring development of dreamy moods. A second motif kicks in to introduce a mesmerizing set of
exotic fusion ambiences; gradually, these ambiences grow to become more intense, with spacey synth
ornaments interfering among the flute flourishes while the rhythm section gets reasonably louder. Once
this exquisite climax ends at the 7 minute mark, the track goes back to its softer realms in order to
prepare the path for the closing reprise. How lovely this piece is!, lovely in the finest tradition of prog,
as a piece of refined tapestry, pristine sensitivity and polished skill. This track is a definitive
cornerstone of French TV, just like the album is a highlight in the current USA prog scene.
follows in a return to the band's extravagant side - the joyful exhibition of Latin jazz colors on a samba-
meet-rumba tempo glows in its frivolous insanity. The Dada-istic approach to these merry colors
reminds me a bit of Rascal Reporters and 90s Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. There is also a duel of guitar
and piano that sounds like Irakere revamping a 80s KC jam (go figure!). By the 4 minute mark, the
piece is totally rooted on an apparently chaotic eclecticism that indeed is nothing but a display of
intelligent complexity. The last motifs tend toward the serene side of things: there is one of them
featuring soft jazzy guitar and Focus-like flute lines, a lovely portion in its own terms; the final section
is based on an atmosphere of soft jazz-rock that becomes quite anti-climatic. in an effective manner,
pleasant as it is ironic.
Almost every French TV album includes a cover, and "The Violence of
Amateurs" is no exception - Sary, Zigoris and their momentary guests indulge in a robust version of
Zamla Mammaz Manna's 'Joosan Lost' ('The Fate'), surpassing the Nektar and VdGG covers that had a
place in previous releases.
This album is a masterpiece, no doubt in my mind about it. 5 stars!
----Cesar Inca, PROGRESSIVE ARCHIVES
I'm not the biggest fan of the term 'thinking man's music', because that
sort of implies that anybody who doesn't listen to said music
is not intelligent. That's certainly not true, and while I myself needed
time initially for my musical tastes to broaden and vary over
time, I still understand why Avant-Garde music can be disliked by many,
many people, even members of this very site. Yes,
despite our willingness to dive into the experimental world of Prog
Rock, many of us proggers still find ourselves stumped when it
comes to certain sub-genres. So what exactly should we do when faced
with a style of music that doesn't speak to us? Well, we
can either leave it alone for good and possibly miss out on some
wonderful musical moments, or we can scout the perimeter of
the said genre and search for a way in. I think if you're still curious
about RIO/Avant-Prog, French TV is a very good band that
could serve as your 'entry point'.
The reason I say this is because
French TV's music, while still very intelligent and uncompromising in
abstract complexity, there is
an undertone of accessibility that should appeal to more traditional
Prog fans, even those not initiated into this particular area of
the genre. There are hints of smooth Jazz, Hard Rock, Bluegrass and
Classical, and yet it never becomes 'too much to handle'.
Every moment on this record feels like it is supposed to be there. It
fits. Never did I feel like these guys were just tacking on a
bunch of pointless complexity to simply show off. It truly seems that
the compositions (as off-the-wall and non-traditional as they
may be) were all written to serve the music, and not themselves.
Whenever an artist does that, it's always worth applauding.
Especially with a band as capable as this, it would be very easy to
allow ego to run rampant and play super-fast and super-
complex all the time, but then of course the music itself would suffer
from too much content and not enough 'room to breathe'.
French TV never once falls into this trap, and they pull off their
impressive, intelligent music with incredible grace and reservation.
what exactly IS French TV all about musically? Sure, I've described my
impressions and personal opinions based on what I
heard, but I have yet to get specific. So I thought I would go
song-by-song this time and give a brief overview of each, so that you
the potential buyer can feel confident in your purchase, knowing what to
expect. The album's tracks grow increasingly longer over
the course of the record, and the music becomes more and more
experimental and interesting. Please take a moment to read
below and see if the info provided is enough for you to give this band
and album a shot.
''The Kokonimo Stomp'' starts out with what
sounds like a mixture of saxophone and flute providing the initial
doesn't play too much of a role in the begging, and even when electric
guitar and keyboards become prominent, it isn't until about
a minute-and-a-half into the track that we begin to hear something that
resembles a more familiar concept of a melody. It is led by
the saxophones, with clean, energetic rhythm guitar back-up. A little
after two minutes in, organ plays a more significant role. This
is my favorite part of the song. Then things pick up the pace even more
with a complex, interesting banjo lead! After that, things
die down and become more atmospheric and psychedelic briefly before the
next rush of exciting instrumentation blasts in. Some
funny, wordless vocals come in near the song's end, and by this point
you should have a good idea of what you're in for. This
track in particular is just so much fun to listen to, and it was a great
choice for an album opener.
''The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle''
Starts off with a march and whistle that sounds straight out of the
armed forces, with the drums
and flutes playing in that familiar, stomping fashion. But before long,
things dart into a different direction entirely, and the song
truly begins. Cool mixture of styles, here. Distorted lead guitar,
occasional input from the sax, digital layering, and almost Metal-
like composition overall. The song continues to head in unpredictable
directions while holding on to the hard rock leanings nearly
the whole time. It's a brilliant track. I don't want to give it all
away, but suffice it to say, later on in the track is when the
other more well-known Avant-Garde groups first appear on this album.
Odessa Steps Sequence'' is apparently a cover song by a band called
Volare. Brian Donohue, who drums on this track as
well as a couple of others, was a regular member of said band, it seems,
and they decided to recognize the band through this
track. Although I have not heard any material from Volare, they are/were
damn good if this song is any indication. Since it was
written by a different line-up of sorts, the attitude and direction of
this song is a bit different from the other songs on this release. It's
ironically one of my favorite songs from The Violence Of Amateurs. The first half of the song is just gorgeous beyond belief,
while the second half is more aggressive and avant-garde in its delivery. Very exciting, and always changing. A must-listen.
Lucky, as of this writing, that very track is made available as a sample on the band's page here at PA.
Order Quarks'' is another favorite of mine. A bit more laid back to
begin with than previous French TV originals on this album,
the song features flute very prominently during its first half, and the
smooth Jazz influence is very heavy here. Just a lot of light,
lovely music. The second half of the song takes on a more Middle-Eastern
type of vibe, and the flute is once again fairly
prominent, but rather than being the soothing, caressing piece of the
puzzle that it was then, it now sounds like it belongs to a
snake charmer, urging his pets out of their holes with frantic ferocity.
Around 7:45, things come back around again, and the Jazzy,
uplifting side of the music now dominates the song's outro. This is one
roller-coaster ride of a song, and may possibly be the
album's highest point. Just brilliant.
''Tiger Tea'', a more
playful opening sets the stage, at times the keyboards and guitars
sounding like they came out of a Yes song.
Once the saxophone comes in for some major playing, though, you realize
this is still French TV. One of the more wild tracks on
the album, this song might be the most unaccessable original track the
album has to offer. However, those of us who already love
Avant-Garde Prog music should feel right at home. It's the
second-to-longest track, so long attention spans are required to get the
full enjoyment out of it, but even then this song may very well be my
least favorite, simply because it just doesn't speak to me as
personally or immediately as the other original tracks did. However, you
should know that this is still a very fantastic track, and just
because I like it the least, that doesn't mean that I don't like it. I
do. It's just not as good as the others, in my view. Still quite
interesting and worth hearing, though.
''Joosan Lost/The Fate'' is the second and final cover song on The Violence Of Amateurs.
It is taken from the group Samla
Mammas Manna (from their 'Zamla' era), and it a lot of fun to listen to.
I have to be honest, here - as of right now, I am still not
familiar enough with Samla Mammas Manna's work to say how accurate of a
cover this is, or even which version may be better
than the other. I can say, however, that the presentation of the song is
still very much in French TV style, and it doesn't feel
disjointed or 'tacked-on' to the rest of the material at all. Right at
home, this track is, and it's very, very well-played. A good song,
the longest song, and the last song of the record. Part of me does wish
that these guys had ended the album with an original
piece, and not just a cover of pre-existing material, but that's a minor
issue, and not worth worrying about. It's still a fantastic album
The Violence Of Amateurs was my first French TV
experience, and it blew me away. So as much as I hate to say this, I
would indeed classify this as 'think man's music'. That's not to
alienate anybody out there in Prog land who wouldn't like this, but i
do think the music found on this release is very intelligent and
above-par. So far beyond most of the other stuff heard in the more
well-known Prog sub-genres, and really, that describes the entire
RIO/Avant-Prog sub-genre to me - it's one of the few styles of
music that is TRULY progressing all the time, and if this album is any
indication, this type of forward-thinking isn't going to run out
of steam anytime soon.
This album should be able to appeal to even
those more unfamiliar with Avant-Prog, but it still doesn't hold
anything back, and
delivers big for those of us who are on the lookout for more
interesting, otherworldly music. French TV's appeal reaches beyond
many of their peers, and crosses over into enough varied territory to
bring in fans from all over. Now it's just a matter of raising the
awareness for these guys. It's a shame that so few people here seem to
even know that this band exists, and even fewer people
are bothering to review their works. Let's change that. Go and order
yourself a copy of The Violence Of Amateurs, and
weigh in your opinion as well.
Happy listening. 4 stars
----JLocke, PROGRESSIVE ARCHIVES
FRENCH TV: The Violence Of Amateurs
Hey-whatever this lot are on, make mine a barrel-load! It's not often that something as simple (sorry lads - you know what I mean) as a jazz-rock group can produce something that is just so mind-bogglingly varied, that you are somewhat in awe of the mix of complexity, solidity, accessibility, and musical fun with which you are presented on this brand new album. There are so many twists and turns that take your breath away, and just when you think you ye heard it all, the band get their heads down and drive full-on into some seriously intense musical dimensions where the lead instruments and main ensemble melodic work, from mainly synths/keys/guitars and occasional flute/sax work, fly most high (exceedingly high, in fact). Even more fantastic is the rhythm section as, even in fusion acts, you rarely hear the bass and drums mixed and played to such perfection as this, and it's fair to say that finer electric bass work has rarely been heard outside of Percy Jones' days with Brand X. As the album continues, so the tracks get longer, and the music really smokes, with track three threatening to take your head off with its sizzling performances all round and a guitar solo that leaves you open-mouthed at the sheer scale of it all - nearly nine minutes of steaming ecstasy. The acoustic intro to track four, thus comes as something of a relief, as liltling sax, solid bass/drums and sweeping piano join the guitar on a dynamic but relaxed number that gradually builds up steam (all aboard!!! but then spends the mid-section staying relatively restrained although subtly powerful throughout, with a superb flute solo and I don't even like flute!!! (well, not on toast, anyway). After the ten minutes of superb dynamics and occasional driving arrangements towards the end of the middle (well you will all see), this is one of the tracks that really gets under your skin and makes you want to play it more and more often.But you carry on, and next up is the 12 minute fifth track that sees the band back on the track of throwing up....err, I mean in...the kitchen sink, with more musical twists and turns than something with a lot of musical twists and turns in it. With the basic quintet line-up going at it, this is one belting track that has the lot, from subtly to complex, melodic to all-out bite, relaxed to frantic, and yet all delivered with structure, purpose, heart and a feel that most fusion hands world kill for- just superb. Finally a near 22 minute 'magnum opus' as the band proceed to do somewhat bravely in my book, a track by Samla Mammas Manna. But wait....they do it BETTER than the original, and the basic quartet of electric guitars, analogue synth, electric bass, drums and keys really tear into the track and make it their own with the perfect mix of a wide range of European, American and UK fusion music styles as you will witness on any such CD and the musicians really give everything with each one either delivering remarkable work in its own right, with some sizzling solos along the way from the guitar and synth/keys. The surreal mid-section starts off in slightly avant-garde territory hut then see the structure put to great use as a storming electric guitar solo blares out from the foggy synth background while the rhythm section attempts to keep it all on the straight and narrow. After this, there comes eight (count 'em!!) explosive minutes of fantastic fusion music that will have you racing around the room like an idiot, grinning from ear to ear at the sheer scale of the enjoyment factor and the finest group fusion this side of the 70's. Superbly arranged, produced, composed and delivered, this is one of the best jazz-rock album of the last ten years and easily the finest thing this band has ever done, and you can't say fairer than that. Essential listening.
----Andy Gee-CRANIUM MUSIC, NEW ZEALAND
French TV The Violence of Amateurs (Pretentious Dinosaur Records)
A witty sleeve cover story sets the scene for this, my first encounter with American band French TV. Here's a taste, dear reader: “... trying to pin-point the exact moment his long-cherished genre, progressive rock, had become the new decade's dominant musical trend ... it was when Madonna, Whitney Houston and Alanis Morisette released nearly identical twenty minute epics about the universe (or something to that effect) ...". A clever story it may be, and one matched by the musical cleverness of this band. Perhaps, as with the story, a lot of the nuances and detail can be lost in what can occasionally sound cacophonous. There is no simple phrase to describe the music. So varied are the influences, that often you are unclear if it is the same band playing!
Instrumental, progressive jazz-rock? Or how about take a great deal of Gong, the more eclectic parts of King Crimson, get Branford Marsalis and Mel Collins involved, and allow the odd dash of Caravan, B52's, Brand X, Keith Emerson or Spike Jones to escape. See what I mean?
Their wit permeates both the music and the song titles ("Mail Order Quarks", for example) and in the excess of some tracks on the CD, it undermines the musical statements, ranging from the four minute 'Kokonino Stomp’ 1to the 21 minute long "Joosan Lost/The Fate". The same dichotomy exists on the CD sleeve, with a witty story nestled against a potent comment on the unnecessary military spending when compared to Russia, Chinese and other 'rogue states’ I advise: when they are good, they are good, and when they are bad they are bad. But on the whole, they are more
than half way good - if acquired listening.
----David Pearson--WONDEROUS STORIES # 69 [ENGLAND]
FRENCH TV: THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS
Any new French TV album is always a load of fun and great playing, but with 1999's "The Violence of Amateurs", the band have taken a big step forward, both in the composition department and in the quality of production overall. The band here seems to have found a space somewhere between a progressive rock groove and the Hatfield/NH style Canterbury sound, with strong Zappa-like influences. A fairly consistent band membership over several albums now, with the core of Sary, Zigoris, Robinson, and Douglas, contributes to the cohesive whole, with other members contributing on several tunes. They are also joined on three of the album's six tunes by Volare drummer Brian Donohoe. An excellent take of Volare's "Odessa Steps Sequence" is one of the disc's high points. "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle" (with its hilarious marching intro and strong surfbeat inclinations) and the quirky twelve minute opus "Tiger Tea" are high points also. The ten minute "Mail Order Quarks" is a very polished jazz oriented tune that features guest violin and voices. Closing the album is a cover of an obscure Samla Mammas Manna tune, 20 minutes in fact, giving another peek into FTV's wide range of influences. But where are those funny song titles this time, Mike? Okay, the funny booklet cover art makes up for it. At any rate, this is FTV's best studio effort to date. Recommended.
-----Peter Thelen, EXPOSE
FRENCH TV — THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS (1999, 65:55, Pretentious Dinosaur Records CDOO4)
Just a few months ago I received a batch of French TV discs to review, and here's another silver disc of this US progressive rock outfit. To pinpoint FTV's music on this venture, I would say a US version of Canterbury music. They have a healthy dose of humor in their sound. However "The Violence Of Amateurs” puts you on the wrong foot right away. It starts off with quirky avant-garde like "The Kokonino Stomp” and continues in the same manner with "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle". Screamish sax playing and nervous rhythms, weird sounds.
With these tracks out of the way, things get more melodic. "The Odessa Steps Sequence " is a track by fellow countrymen Volare. This 8 minute track starts atmospheric with some lush keys and lovely flute playing makes this an outstanding track that has a certain loveliness to it although there's a dark sound to it as well. Halfway through it gets more upbeat and reminds me more or less of Rush playing a more jazzy style music, probably the best track on the disc to my liking.
After these short songs we get 3 tunes that clock in (way) over 10 minutes. If you are brave enough to sit this through you'd better strap yourself.
With "Mail Order Quarks” the mellow mood continues. It sounds pretty sweet in the beginning with some nice violin playing halfway through it building up to a nice climax with an eastern feel to it. After this we get to the more harder to digest tunes. "Tiger Tea” starts with a salsa-party like intro and goes through many quirks and turns, an odd track with a Zappa touch to it. The finale of the CD is another cover. This time by Swedish avant-garde band Zamla Mammas Manna. A 20 minute workout of "Joosan Lost/The Fate". If you are an adventurous music lover this disc hold a lot to discover but no CD to do your dishes to ( except if you want to have a new set anyway )
***+ (Maurice)--BACKGROUND MAGAZINE #71, AUGUST 2002 [THE NETHERLANDS]
FRENCH TV the violence of amateurs [Reviewer Rikard A. Toftesund]
This fun band comes from Louisville (Kentucky) and has existed since 1983, all this time under the leadership of bassist Mike Sary. The music of French TV is somewhat related to the classic Canterbury- style of groups such as Matching Mole and Gilgamesh, but refers first and foremost to earlier American intrepretations of the same influences, such as Grits, However and perhaps especially to The Muffins. Mike Sary and company fits therefore nicely into a category together with names like A Triggering Myth, Ut Gret, Radio Piece III and Volare (whose drummer Brian Donohue guests on three of the six tracks).I have always liked French TV, and "The Violence..." gives me a firm confirmation as to why; this is undoubtly their best record so far. Their long jazz-harmonic-dripping instrumental escapades literally overflows with playfulness and color. The choice of sound and tone are firmly nailed, the production, with its clear use of space, is perfectly suited to the "mood", and gives the correct impulse of quirkiness and measured eccentricity.All the band's other issues contain moving moments; French TV (1985) and After A Lengthy Silence (1987) are somewhat hampered by ill-fitted "sound filtering", while Virtue In Futility (1994) and Intenstinal Fortitude (1995) show remarkable development as to the will to experiment and vary. Yoo-Hoo (1997) is a good live album showing that Sary & Co's songs are well suited to the stage.The Violence of Amateurs, on the other hand, is the first of the group's initiatives that seriously "caught me off guard". Whether it is because of the knock-on effect of the music, or just the fact that this record is a much more consistent effort than the rest, I am unsure of. The pieces are far more ambitious and well-written than French TV's previous releases, and technically they sound better than ever, the album grows on each hearing.There are a couple of odd elements. One is the avant-guitar legend Eugene Chadbourne's participation on the opening track The Kokonino Stomp (banjo!). The other is the almost 22 minute long cover version of Zamla Mammaz Manna's The Fate which neither breaks new ground (in relation to the original) nor shows the drums/electric guitar/bass/keyboards setup (which is varied from album to album) from a particularly exciting side, free improvisition or not.But here is an additional 44 minutes of consistently great music, and this clearly legitimates a purchase for those who enjoy well-crafted Canterbury-prog. And don't miss Sary's liner notes, a black, funny history of a fictious future situation where French TV has become superstars due to a market boom for prog in general (the group's CD booklets are otherwise notorious for their polemic intrepretations about waste and hypocrisy within the American defence industry and government).
----©2001 Tarkus Magazine[ Norway]
French TV-The Violence of Amateurs [1999, Pretentious Dinosaur]
The improbably named French TV actually come from Louisville, Kentucky and, since their formation in 1984, they have recorded a total of six albums; "The Violence of Amateurs" being the most recent. Despite numerous personnel changes over the years, one constant has remained in the band's mainstay - bassist Mike Sary. He is joined by guitarist Dean Zigoris throughout this album, but the remainder of the lineup seems to be fairly fluid, with different combinations of players appearing on the the various tracks.
The band plays a form of jazz oriented progressive rock. Comparisons have been made in the past, likening French TV to Frank Zappa and their innovative style and often complex nature of the music make it very clear why. One can also spot further influences from the likes of Gentle Giant and Van der Graaf Generator showing through at various points.
How else can one describe the music? With great difficuhy is the short answer. This album, which is purely instrumental by the way, tends to jump readily between moods while at the heart of much of the music lurks a sense of unpredictability that keeps the sound fresh and vibrant. It is sometimes raucous, sometimes humorous and quite often just plain weird! On this final point I offer as evidence, not just the the album covers for this and the preceeding releases, but also the band's web site -although don't mistake me here, this is intended as positive feedback. Another comment worth making is in connection with the production which in terms of quality is very high, with the sound coming over as very sharp and clear throughout
Getting things underway is "The Kokonino Stomp", a somewhat disjointed and slightiy discordant piece, which is punctuated with strong sax work from Greg Acker, who also p1ays flute on the track. The effect of the piece is wacky in places (I'm sure I heard a doorbell ringing in the early stages) and the inclusion of a bizarre banjo part is totally mad! Honky tonk piano adds to the chaotic nature -yet despite its initially unsettling nature, it really flows along rather nicely.
"The Secret Life of Walter Riddle" opens with what sounds like a marching band with the sound of whistles and flutes -and to say this is strange is putting it rather mildly. However, after the first half minute or so the percussion cuts in, followed once more by throbbing sax work, and the track takes on a more business-like approach. The sax play divides into two distinct styles: the first providing dependable rhythmic playing, while the other takes off on improvised lead breaks which are truly phenomenal. In addition to this, Dean Zigoris puts in a powerful performance on lead guitar, set against a solid underpinning of drum and bass. Although the keyboard work tends to be somewhat overshadowed, it too is worth listening out for.
Probably the most easily accessible track on the album is "The Odessa Steps Sequence". From the gentle acoustic guitar lead that heralds the opening section, this is a very comfortable piece to listen to. The mood early on is quite easy going with some marveflous flute passages buoying it along. Following on from this, a slightly more threatening undercurrent starts to develop but never really takes complete command. The emphasis changes once again in the latter stages when the tempo picks up considerably with faster flowing keyboard runs taking the lead.
"Mail Order Quarks" is, for me, one of the highlights of the album. The track runs through a whole range of moods: starting off tripping lightly along, then heading through a darker more brooding mid section featuring acoustic guitar. There are some wonderful flute overlays, provided once again by Greg Acker, before the piece takes on a more whimsical feel for the final section. Another strength here is the excellent violin work from Cathy Moeller, which really brings something special to the sound.
"Tiger Tea" is perhaps a more straight forward jazz influenced piece, but it still has its moments of madness. The track is very strong on keyboard work, and John Robinson does a truly remarkable job throughout. Support comes from the by now familiar sax and flute playing of Greg Acker, while Mike Sary's bass playing should not be overlooked. This is another more readily accessible piece that should be enjoyed by jazz and progressive fans alike.
The final number "Joosan Lost/The Fate", is apparently a cover version, originally recorded in 1977 by a Swedish band called Zamla Mammaz Manna. I don't mind admitting I have never heard of this band, much less the track; so how it compares to the original I cannot begin to guess. The track offers a spirited performance with masterly guitar work and great synth sounds. The strongly improvisational playing style works well, and the constant sense of change and evolution leaves the listener wondering where it is going next. UItimately however, this piece is its own worst enemy -with a running time in excess of twenty minutes, it is simply too much. The playing is very intense and there is just too much happening to keep focused for the full distance and ultimately I find myself switching off. The old addage of less is more comes to mind here.
Many people seem to find French TV to be an immediately accessible band, but I must confess I have been trying to figure out for nearly two months whether I actually like them or not. The good news is that the jury is now out on this point and the verdict is a resounding YES! When all is said and done, this is certainly a very creditable album with solid musicianship, challenging music and excellent production. If you enjoy progressive music with strong jazz influences and improvisational playing and a slightly avant garde approach see what you make of French TV.
---Simon; 19th. June 2001 NEW HORIZONS; http://www.elrose.demon.co.uk
art-rock with incredibly tight instrumental passages and time signatures
that would make most rock musicians cringe in terror are just a couple of
the concepts running rampant throughout the 1999 album from Kentucky-based
French TV. Although not dated sounding at all, The
Violence Of Amateurs wouldn’t have seemed at all out of place back
in the ‘70s, the decade that spawned progressive rock groups from just
about every country in the world. Imagine a band of talented players who
are more than happy to revel in the heyday of prog-rock icons like Gentle
Giant, ELP, Happy The Man and Return To Forever (with Al DiMeola) as well
as mid ‘70s avant-gard prog rockers like Henry Cow and National Health
and you begin to get the drift of the French TV sound. Led by Mike
Sary (bass) and Dean Zigoris (guitars),
the French TV sound is further fleshed out by a number of other fine
players. A completely instrumental set, The
Violence Of Amateurs ranges in scope from the hair-raising to the
picturesque and sublime with the highlight surely being a 21 minute,
true-to-life cover of “The Fate”, originally written and recorded in
1977 by Sweden’s best art-rock band Zamla
Mammaz Manna. The Violence Of
Amateurs is adventurous progressive rock and is recommended to anyone
who remembers the days when rock musicians were still considered artists.
COMMERCIAL FREE CULTURAL WACKINESS: FRENCH TV--THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS
I know a woman who was born and raised in France, and I asked her what the biggest difference is between American and French television. "Commercials," she snapped. "You have too many commercials on TV. Plus, your news starts too early." She admitted, however, that she hasn't lived in France for more than a decade and knows that French broadcasting has become more commercial and less tax-based. In an era of global de-regulation and de-centralization of services, the world is slowly catching up to the American model of commercial broadcasting, which may not be a bad thing. Just think: if the networks and stations didn't sell their available time, how else could we have enjoyed those umpteen thousand years of Urkel?
You won't find commercial breaks (or traces of Urkel, praise Allah) in "The Violence of Amateurs" from Louisville's French TV. No short, ready-for-airplay tunes that will later sound pleasing when seeped through speakers in an elevator. Nothing hummable. Nothing that can be used in a karaoke machine. But what you will find is a wacky miasma of long songs with strange melodies, oddly paced rhythms and instrumentation ranging from the obvious (bass, drums, keyboard, guitar) to the bizarre (Hawaiian nose flute, doorbell, and quarter-inch jack). On your first listen, the influences are obvious: King Crimson's progressive bombast, Frank Zappa's stream-of-consciousness leaps from melody to melody, Carl Stallings' cartoon stingers. And with song titles that reference science, Soviet cinema and old comic strips, the work in Violence seems to say, "The entire culture is a playground. Let's go see if we can bury the swing set in the sandbox."
French TV consists of core members Mike Sary (bass), Dean Zigoris (guitar), Bob Douglas (drums) and John Robinson (keyboards). Also appearing are Splatch's Greg Acker on saxes and flutes, Eugene Chadbourne on banjo (Chadbourne will present a concert on October 1 at Artswatch), Cathy Moeller on violin, Steve Good and Aevil on clarinet and saxes, and several others. From this collective comes the opening polyrhythmic/polymelodic track "The Kokonino Stomp" (an appropriate anthem for the surreal Kokonino County, where the comic strip "Krazy Kat" took place). It is followed by "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle," which starts out as a march but jumps right into a segment that sounds like the music we would hear in the old Batman television show when he and Robin were thrashing the crap out of the villain-of-the-week's henchmen. It even contains a few stingers so you can paste "Pow!" and "Whap!" on your own mental TV screen. The title itself is a blend of two cultural morsels: Nelson Riddle, who composed the music used in "Batman," and James Thurber's short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," about a mousy man who frequently leaps in and out of a world of fantasy. Admit it - there are times you wished you had Nelson Riddle's Bat-tunes playing in the background behind you, like when you lay a patch of rubber in your driveway or have face-off with your boss (and wished that he or she had a group of guys in black sweatshirts and wool hats to charge at you so you could make a few "Pows!" and "Whaps!" yourself).
The band also manages some surprisingly gentle jazz in "Mail Order Quarks" and finishes with the lengthy "Joosan Lost/The Fate," segmented into movements that are complete unto themselves, yet vaguely connected. Kind of like a night of Internet surfing.
It's all of the above and more. So unhook your brain. Tune in to French TV and The Violence of Amateurs.
---Tim Roberts, LOUISVILLE MUSIC NEWS
J a n u a r y 2 0 0 0: The Violence Of Amateurs - French TV
This is the sixth release from bassist Mike Sary's band and by far the best one so far. It seems to me that the band has matured considerably as they have developed a more complete sound, now with more obvious leanings towards Zappa. They still stick to the typical complex, rhythm-breaking style that made French TV a name for themselves though. The music here has intricate structures with a good sense of humor, is well varied and indeed very well performed. This is an effort by highly skilled musicians who pushes the boundaries a bit further, beyond all pre-imaginary limits. This is easily the best prog album of 1999. "The Violence Of Amateurs" is highly recommended to anyone with some daring, a good sense of whimsy and who is truly a fastidiously listener.
---Mats Perstenberg/ LUNATIC FRINGE REVIEWS [SWEDEN]
FRENCH TV-The Violence Of Amateurs (Pretentious Dinosaur)
Eclectic art-rock with incredibly tight instrumental passages and time signatures that would make most rock musicians cringIn terror are just a couple of the concepts running rampant throughout the 1999 album from Kentucky-based French TV. Although not dated sounding at all, The Violence Of Amateurs wouldn't have seemed at all out of place back In the '70s, the decade that spawned progressive rock groups from just about every country in the world. Imagine a band of talented players who are more than happy to revel in the heyday of prog-rock icons like Gentle Giant, ELP, Happy The Man and Return To Forever (with Al DiMeola) as well as mid '70s avant-gard prog rockers like Henry Cow and National Health and you begin to get the drift of the French TV sound. Led by Mike Sary (bass) and Dean Zigoris (guitars), the French TV sound is further fleshed out by a number of other fine players. A completely instrumental set, The Violence Of Amateurs ranges in scope from the hair-raising to the picturesque and sublime with the highlight surely being a 21 minute, true-to-life cover of "The Fate", originally written and recorded in 1977 by Sweden's best art-rock band Zamla Mammaz Manna. The Violence Of Amateurs is adventurous progressive rock and is recommended to anyone who remembers the days when rock musicians were still considered artists.
---REVIEW FROM MMW3.COM
The Violence of Amateurs-- French TV
I have had the pleasure to sample much of FTV's discography. I find this recent outing a winner. FTV is one wild, zany, and iconoclastic bunch of musicians with a penchant for the bizarre. They are all over the place compositionally but highly skilled nonetheless. And such is the cream-pie-tossing way Sary and gang chase each other around on these six eclectic compositions. I have been reminded by Sary that I tend to say that FTV reminds me of nearly everything so this time I will attempt to narrow things a tad. Imagine Zappa, (Keneally and Fowler boys too), got together with National Health, Hatfield and the North, The Banzo Dog Band, Volare, Zamlas Mammas Manna, and way too much designer coffee. What happens is magic and unpredictable fun. Mike Sary on bass and percussion, Dean Zigoris on guitar, gtr. synth and some keys, John Robinson on main keys, Brian Donohoe (Volare, Matter Eater), guesting on drums, and Bob Douglas on more drums are all joined by many talented others on more keys, flute, reeds, violin, vocals, banjo, and assorted noises to create one fine release. They cover a Volare song, "The Odessa Steps Sequence” and Zamla Mammas Manna's "Joosen Lost/The Fate". Elsewhere we find four excellent FTV originals. Good stuff, (surf guitar outro included with purchase).
I found the first 5:30 of the monolithic 21:40 "Joosan Lost/The Fate” wonderful, the next 7:00 was just FTV free form, improv meanderville. Things got a lot more interesting thereafter in the overdrlven, wall-of-sound, extended 5:50 pseudo-finale movement. And finally the remaining 3:20 returns with an outro/reprise of the great jams of the piece's early feel. if you have never tried FTV then start with this latest splash.
---By John W. Patterson, ALL ABOUT JAZZ.COM
GIANT PROGWEED REVIEWS: FRENCH TV6: THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS
Wow. Really, wow. This album has been a joy to listen to ever since I first put it in my cd player. For the uninitiated, French TV plays a hybrid of Canterbury, RIO, Fusion, and Insanity; not to mention random little snippets of other styles. All this is packaged together into a whole that at times can be zany, and at others beautiful. All the compositions here are very strong, and along with the superb musicianship, create something that is challenging, yet instantly appealing. What I find most engaging, is the playfulness that runs through most of the album, but the band is still able to retain a dark and foreboding feeling in parts. An excellent balance. Bassist Mike Sary and Guitarist Dean Zigoris form the core of this outing, with many guests on drums, keyboards, various wind instruments, and even banjo.
of the wackiness of the band, the first track "The Kokonino Stomp"
opens with a burst of horns that sounds much like something from a big band, leading into some zany, yet complex passages, and even an banjo solo! If nothing else, this song is just fun. "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle" has a real groove to it, and is brimming with searing guitar solos and short sax lines punching into the melee. This leads us to my favorite piece on the album, "The Odessa Steps Sequence"; slow building, dark and brooding, epic and cinematic. Filled with great themes, great rhythms that leave an excellent foundation for guitar and keyboard runs and even a beautiful flute solo.
more could you want? The next two tracks take a more lighthearted
approach, with a nice eastern vibe in "Mail Order Quarks". This leads into the monster cover of Zamla Mammaz Manna's "Joosan Lost / The Fate", a wonderful juxtaposition of symphonic melodies and all out improv noise with a lullaby like intro.
The Violence Of Amateurs has been
a staple of my listening habits since it's arrival. The wonderful, off
the wall humor of Sary and co. shines through in the playful, yet difficult music being played. This is something that should easily appeal to fans of Canterbury, Fusion or even the more open minded symph fan, and it comes with my highest recommendation.
---- Mike Prete [May 2001]
French TV - The Violence Of Amateurs
Label: Pretentious Dinosaur Records
Cat. No.: CD004
Total Time: 65:18
Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, August 2000/PROGRESSIVE WORLD
Okay...how to describe French TV's The Violence Of Amateurs? I could take the short cut and say RIO-esque (as I've seen them called). But if you're like me in not being all that familiar with the "conventions" of RIO, or if you don't even what the term means beyond knowing it's an acronym for Rock In Opposition, then leaving it at that would have you scratching your head. So, in my usual long-winded way, I'll tell you a bit of what I hear and "see."
"The Kokonino Stomp" which kicks off this disc, made this image come to mind: I'm sitting in an auditorium waiting for a battle of the avant-jazz bands to begin. All the participants are warming up at once, and yet, in the chaos they seem to actually be all playing in time. The title track basically has everything but the kitchen sink and sounds like a melodic mishmash of 50's-70's TV themes and incidental music, including everything from segues between scenes to cheesy action sequences. Perhaps this is where the TV in their name comes from. Beautiful it isn't, but it is fun, energetic, and danceable...in a fashion. Yes, it also evokes some of the "cheesier" musicals.
"The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle" is another that goes in various directions, including a bit of 60's surf guitar. The militaristic intro gave me visions of white uniformed sailors doing a dance routine on the top-forward section of a battleship - actually, what I pictured was Gene Kelly in a white sailor uniform doing this dance. Which, of course, he did do just such a routine, more or less, in On The Town (sans the battleship). And not quite so far fetched when you consider that James Thurber's "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" begins with the titular character in a military setting, before he's brought back to reality by his wife. Admittedly though, Mitty wasn't doing a Kelly routine.
Along a much different, and decidedly less frenetic, path is "The Odessa Steps Sequence" (a cover of a Volaré composition; Volaré drummer Brian Donohue guests to boot). This has a slight symphonic King Crimson feel about it (maybe Red period), but would also go over well with the contemporary instrumental crowd, those that edge closer to the rock element than the new age element. Djam Karet, for example, but then I also think of Italian progressive. So, like everything else on this album, pinning them down to just one "sound" is about as easy as defining what, exactly, progressive music is. "Mail Order Quarks" follows in a similar fashion, slowly evolving from an understated atmospheric piece to a lively flute let piece, subsiding to flute, sax, and vocalizations, rising and subsiding again as different instruments take the lead.
"Tiger Tea" has a bass-heavy Caribbean like feel to it, and like the first two, has odd bits that flit in and out of the mix, giving the track some angular edges. But later you'll get gentle piano and guitar passages. Some jazzy bits, too.
The last track is a Zamla Mammas Manna (aka Samla Mammas Manna) tune, "Joosan Lost/The Fate." Zamla are/were a rock-fusion band from Sweden that shifted towards a more RIO sound. This falls somewhere between the quirky avant-jazz of the first two pieces and sections of the remainder of the album. Not quite as quirky but not quite as smooth. Guitar leads are all over this piece, but the instrument list includes such items as "noise," "Ye Olde Analogue Synthesizer," "1/4 Jack Noise," and "Organic Noise." There's a section about 6 minutes in (the entire track clocks in at 21:40) that is more sound effects than "music," but is no less interesting and engaging than the rest of the track, nay, than the rest of the album. Oh, you'll get this again at about 11 minutes in, too. There are parts that are quite heavy - dark, low toned notes...some points that feel like an improv jam session...
Listing: The Kokonino Stomp (4:42)/ The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle
(8:14) / The Odessa Steps Sequence (8:42) / Mail Order Quarks (10:27) /
Tiger Tea (12:13) / Joosan Lost/The Fate (21:40)
Nuno Published on: 10 Apr 2002 for PROGGNOSIS
The most common phrase that you will hear from someone that listens to this onslaught album for the first time is: “What the Hell is going on here????”. The truth is that this feeling of perplexity will endure no matter how many times you listen to this frantic and utterly lunatic band’s albums.
I believe there is no sub-genre in prog music that French TV leaves out of the mix in their difficult and extra complex releases. From Symphonic to Fusion, with a lot of RIO and Canterbury escapades and the add of humor, cartoon and circus music, old swing and many (I mean many!) other styles, they agglomerate it all in just one song, one minute, one second. It is truly unbelievable.
Of course this makes The Violence of Amateurs an album that will be too much out of grasp for most listeners, for it comprehends way too much explorations and odd structures for most proggers. Those who really are adventurous at heart and have compatible ears to cope with this extreme mix of genres will probably think this is a one-of-a-kind band that ensures music is well alive and progressing in all directions.
If there are songs here that mostly remain within the symphonic progressive status like, for instance, The Odessa Steps Sequence or the first part of Mail Order Quarks; others are that will probably make you believe you are having some sort of musical hallucination. In this last category you may fit the first two songs of the album, that clearly state this band is quite abnormal in their musical approach. The compositional skills are obviously of the highest level, completely out of any standard or status quo, making this album a classic of Avant-Garde Prog.
The closing 22 minute opus Joosan Lost/The Fate is a version of a Samla Mammas Manna song and it is a masterpiece on its own. It has an improvisation section that really shows this band’s innovative and skillful playing.This is a complex, refreshing and real funny sonic experience that will turn to debris any musical preconception that we may still have. By the way, this kind of concept could only emerge in the progressive scene…really!
One thing I find most amusing and surprising is that this was the most sold album in the JungleCD’s sales booth during the GAR2001 Art Rock Festival held in Portugal (along with Petrophonics by Birdsongs of the Mesozoic). Also, their new album, The Case Against Art is getting a lot of focus here, these days. At least in Portugal, this is a case of success!
Do I recommend it??? Without a doubt in my mind. But only for the real explorers.
- - - - - - - - -PROGGNOSIS
FRENCH TV 7-THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS
When French TV drift into some kind of framework and structure, and at times they do, they turn out some high quality music. This is shown to its best effect on the track "The Odessa Steps Sequence" which again is totally out of character with the rest of the album. Its opening sounds almost orchestral then the electric guitar, keys, flute and sax turn this into a smouldering, controlled jazz classic that could almost have been used for one of those "hip" type films of the 70s. Another highlight is "Mail Order Quarks" which has some splendid notes coming from the sax, flute and violin creating some magical moments.
Unfortunately, at times, they do seem to indulge in things that could maybe described as tongue-in-cheek e.g. "Kokonino Stomp" and to a lesser extent "The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle", although this just about stays on track.After saying that there is plenty to keep jazz fans happy, no more so than on the splendid "Tiger Tea" which has some sterling work by John Robinson on keys and Greg Acker on sax and flute. In fact the album closes with the terrific "Joosan Lost/The Fate" which is 21mins. of tremendous jazz that's quite dark at times. It's just a pity that the album was let down in the early stages. 73%
- - - - - - - - - - - - - Terry Tucker, EUROPEAN PROGRESSIVE ROCK REVIEWS