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THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS

French TV

RIO/Avant-Prog


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hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 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 convential 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 album.

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 stars!

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#37043)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 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 ths band, and impressive stuff it is too.

The first track almost put me off - The Kokonino Stomp is almost wilfully 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.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#39086)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Upon playing this album for the first time, it didn't take too long before I realized there's something especially unique and different about French TV. "The Violence Of Amateurs" is French TV's sixth album, but these guys are in no way amateurs. They play very complex, jazzy RIO compositions that are just crammed with so much going on every minute, it's almost easy to lose track sometimes! But what is most rewarding is how upbeat and playful the music is. It's pretty clear these guys like progressive rock, but they don't take it all too seriously. For an instrumental album, it's really quite funny.

The first two songs are fast and upbeat, with an emphasis on horns and have some killer guitar solos. The next song, "The Odessa Steps Sequence" is slightly slower and darker (by French TV standards) and features a more prominent use of keyboards, which gives it a more electronic feel. "Mail Order Quarks" is a softer tune and features some excellent jazzy guitar. "Tiger Tea" is a lot like the previous song, but has plenty of its own interesting twists. The final song, "Joosan Lost/The Fate" is a Zamla Mamma's Manna cover. I haven't heard the original version, but this one is very good. The song is bookended by a very fast and structured passage, but things get a little looser and slower in the middle which is more atmospheric and free form than before.

I highly recommend this album to anyone who is looking for a great RIO album and wants to have fun while listening. The band's performance and compositional skills are incredible, so you won't be disappointed.

Standout songs: "The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle", "Tiger Tea"

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Send comments to Arsillus (BETA) | Report this review (#126071)
Posted Saturday, June 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 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 prominant 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 nice 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 guitar.

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.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#153096)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This music is so rich and complex that it is difficult to tell what is going on sometimes. I love it, but I am not sure it is absolutely essential. It would be good, however, for those fans of RIOism, or even Gentle Giantism, to give at least one album from this band a try. There is so much going on that it can literally keep you busy and engaged for hours.

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Send comments to kabright (BETA) | Report this review (#170665)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 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 "Wakemanized" 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 Franch TV, just like the album is a highlight in the current USA prog scene. 'Tiger Tea' 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 Dadaistic 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.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#212753)
Posted Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars What's French TV? How about a crazy, RIO-influenced, Cantebury sounding, fusiony pyrotechnical freakout band from the middle of Kentucky?

Seriously, with a name like theirs and as obscure and as overlooked as they are (even on PA), I absolutely had to get in on the fun. Right away, the group fires on all cylinders as ''The Kokonimo Stomp'' goes through a plethora of jazz riffs (with a little bluegrass thrown in for whatsits sake) without sounding awkward or forced. The band clearly knows how to have loads of fun, and the first two tracks show it with the second having surf rock as its main base.

Starting with ''The Odessa Steps Sequence'', the group veers into a more serious musical direction with the unique keyboard sound (I don't know what in tarnation it is) stealing the show. The very long ''Joosan Lost/The Fate'' actually goes through only a few themes in its 21+ minute span, but really keeps the interest there as it sounds like epic James Bond movie music.

''Tiger Tea'' and ''Mail Ordered Quarks'' are where I start to have problems with the album as the serious-ness of the music becomes too overbearing; both songs are boring fusion ramblings devoid of a memorable moment. But, this album is the carnival freak show of the prog rock world, and it's worth hearing just for the novelty of it. Even if you don't like the music, the liner notes will make you laugh until you wet your pants.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#266666)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to JLocke (BETA) | Report this review (#273949)
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars French TV is an amazing Avant garde band, which has an impressive way of playing. The violence of amateurs starts with an incredible art craft of instrumentation with the song The Kokonino Stomp. Then, we have a really funny track kind of soldier march that has an explosion of music as well. After that song we have a complete change in direction, something that sounds more like symphonic prog in the song The Odessa Step Sequence. The rest of the songs have this combination of avant and symphonic. Something really recommendable, really crazy, high standard music, that's French TV. Enjoy it!

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Send comments to Memo_anathemo (BETA) | Report this review (#1019498)
Posted Friday, August 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Epileptic Prog - This is my favorite kind of music! So many tempo changes and ridiculous variations, random satiric ideas and well elaborated technical passages. All this without losing sense. Intelligent and abstract.

How could I resist? I fell in love with this album right from the first track, The Kokonino Stomp. Looking at this hellish cover art and listening to the saxophone riff I felt my neck huge as a tower, dancing like a snake and spinning round and round. Do you wanna sniff some RIO? So this is the definitive album for you! Lenghty stupid tracks, complex songwriting, weird noises, annoying childish riffs (just check The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle), totally avant-garde... everything you ever needed. Tiger Tea always makes me laugh with that "beach" feeling. Like Frank Zappa, these guys have the skills to make comedy music. You will probably notice the track titles, they are funny too. From the line-up, Mike Sary, the bass player, is the highlight. He is the mind behinds French TV. Hmm, the album features a great cover from Zammla Mammas Manna.

One of my all time favorites. If I had to force you reader to listen to an album, it would be The Violence of Amateurs.

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Send comments to VOTOMS (BETA) | Report this review (#1027546)
Posted Monday, September 02, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars So you want some totally wacked out RIO / Avant prog that will take you on a sonic journey to every nook and cranny of the prog world and beyond yet remaining at the core accessible to even the uninitiated first time listener? Well accessible in prog terms that is! This is avant prog after all but if you desire to take the plunge into the depths of the oceans of sound where basically only the imaginations of the artists are the limiting factor then this may be a great starting point for hungry adventurous music lovers. However even if you are into the wildest of the wild and the most extreme music there is to be had then this will surely satisfy. All you have to do is sit down and turn on your FRENCH TV.

Upon first listen you would swear that that band is indeed from France or Sweden or some other European destination that has achieved a well-versed repertoire of everything classic prog but to assume such would be totally mistaken because this band comes from the unexpected city of Louisville, KY of all places. The band formed in 1983 and has been around for over 30 years now and still remains surprisingly obscure outside of the small world where us freaks hang out. This album is officially titled FRENCH TV 6 ? The Violence Of Amateurs, meaning it's their sixth release but only their fifth studio album.

The overall sound is a mix of a National Health kind of Canterbury sound with all kinds of light airy flutes and winds, the zaniness of Samla Mamma's Manna and Zappa with their comedic approach to their delivery, Happy The Man with their complex time signatures and breaks, jazz-fusion with wild and disturbing sax solos and a sprinkling of a gazillion others. It's pretty much an instrumental affair with only a few vocal utterings dispersed throughout.

I have to say that I love this wild, unpredictable, original and totally out there progressive music. It flows very nicely so it's fairly easy to follow even though it is so diverse, so eclectic, so zany, so catchy, so complex, so weird. I'm hooked. It wouldn't be unfounded to compare them with Mr Bungle either since they incorporate many styles of prog and other farreaching genres ranging from surf and big band to bluegrass and Krautrock. The main difference is that while Bungle tends to offer brief interludes into a certain sound, FRENCH TV has more of a jam approach and is not afraid to let the music develop for a while and then offer subtle variations. The music is very playful and never feels like it's taking itself too seriously. It just sounds like a bunch of guys who absolutely love music and doing what they do best.

The album begins with "The Kokonino Stomp" which has a kind of alternative big band swing intro and soon takes you somewhere else completely. This track even finds a way to incorporate the Hawaiian nose flute. Hopefully no boogers were hurt during recording.

"The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle" begins with a marching band kind of feel with whistling sound but soon turns into a rocker with a smoking guitar solo becoming a synth dominated jam before morphing into an avant-jazz number with a tripped out sax solo.

"The Odessa Steps Sequence" is a cover from one of the few US Canterbury acts Volare, off their "Memoirs" album. This tracks starts out nice and melodic and pastoral but becomes more aggressive and avant-garde. Comparisons to The Muffins have been made.

"Mail Order Quarks" starts out like a nice melodic breezy jazz-fusion piece with beautiful flutes carrying out its run of this song throughout its entirety making this one the most normal or least bizarre tracks on the album keeping the same pace and feel with a few surprises.

"Tiger Tea" takes us on another journey. This time it sounds like a fusion of South African jazz (of the Thelani Ajb sort) mixed with a Canterbury sound replete with odd time signatures and breaks with all kinds of interludes gradually ramping up to faster and more complex runs.

The grand finale "Joosan Lost / The Fate" which is at 21:40 is the longest track is a cover of a Zamla Mammaz Manna track off of their 1978 Schlagerns Mystik album. I'm not one who usually likes covers of complex pieces of this sort because they usually come off as inferior versions trying to replicate an identical sound and performance. In this case FRENCH TV pulls it off with ease doing the original justice while making it their own and even adding a Krautrock freakout towards the end. The result is a success and is the perfect wrapping up of an excellent album that after getting my greasy little mitts on I have been playing non-stop (this album has been out-of-print for a while). This is my first full FRENCH TV album and it has definitely whetted my appetite for MORE! MORE! MORE!

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Posted Thursday, February 20, 2014 | Review Permalink

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