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French TV - The Violence Of Amateurs CD (album) cover

THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS

French TV

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.14 | 60 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

JLocke
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 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.

So 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 rhythm. Melody 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 similarities to other more well-known Avant-Garde groups first appear on this album.

''The 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.

''Mail 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 unaccessible 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 overall.

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-grenes, 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.

JLocke | 4/5 |

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