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


French TV



4.23 | 86 ratings

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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.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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