French TV - French TV

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Pretentious Dinosaur Records
Catalog Number: CD005
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:27:00

Unlike their most recent album The Violence Of Amateurs, French TV's self-titled debut (1984) is a far less quirky affair and more like jazz-fusion. While spacey, brassy keys open the album on "The Visit Revisited" - defying convention, this track actually comes first rather than last -- it is chunky bass rhythms, scattershot keys, and eddying guitars that are featured on "Happy Armies Fight In Their Sleep" -- proving that French TV's own brand of humour is evident from the get go. Despite the dark humour of the title, the whole piece is upbeat and bright, where those bass rhythms are very martial.

A playful trumpet features heavily in "Under Heaven There Is Great Disorder (And The Situation Is Excellent)," while guitarist Artie Bratton picks out a frenetic solo. This song hints at the big band like jump of "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle" (Violence). "The Artist's House" seems almost conventional in comparison, edging closer to smooth jazz versus the fusion of the rest of the material.

Rippling keys open "Spill," while sparse bass thrums in the background. Slowly rising to the top, bass takes the lead, before percussion and keys swell back to the surface ? those rippling keys become pulsating, like the sound effects for a UFO in a 50's sci-fi flick. Each instrument fades in and out of the mix, leaving one or the other in the lead ? before the tempo picks up to a rockier rhythm, punctuated by extremely shrill keyboards -- so high pitched, don't be surprised if your furry best friend and his doggy pals at stand attention. The track gets warmer when keyboardist Stephen Roberts switches to the Fender Rhodes.

"Dreams Of Peace" is another uncharacteristic, or seemingly uncharacteristic, track from the band, where the sound is more instrumental Supersister, being mainly Roberts' Rhodes and drums. Lively at the outset, there is section that truly becomes dreamy, where spacey synths create a peaceful eddy, before bass (which isolated sounded very much like an early Genesis riff) and percussion pick the pace up. "No Charge (A Free Improv)" sounds very much the contrary as the band are so in sync that you can't help but think this composed. Cohesive and tight for the most part, there are only a few sections where things seem a little unraveled - and characteristic French TV.

King Crimson/ELP-like are parts of "Earth, I Wait," which features some harsh, angular piano along with lyrical phrases. There are parts where Roberts verily attacks his keyboards, somewhat a la Emerson. Arty and avant-garde at the same time, this might be described as the classical composer losing his mind. And yet, it also speaks very much with the voice of a violent earth -- volcanoes erupting, earthquakes shaking the crust, wildfires raging through dense forests, pummeling winds ripping structures apart. It is chaotic to be sure ? and yet, a tour de force for Roberts, the soundpainting done up in angry reds, oranges and sinister blacks.

"The Visit" itself is energetic, the use of vibes making me think of Ed Macan - where else are you going to find vibes in prog rock anyway other than Macan (and French TV)? Sary's bass here is quite funky ? deep boomy ? as the two play off each other in a fevered duel. The calming piano which closes the album is in quite a contrast, not only to the rest of the track that precedes it, but also to anything else on the album, being the closest to classical than anything Roberts does on here.

First released in a limited edition of 500 vinyl copies in 1984, this album features Artie Bratton on acoustic and electric guitar, Stephen Roberts (who later left and formed ZNR Records) on an assortment of keyboards, Fenner Castner on drums and percussion, and mainstay Mike Sary on bass. Sary wrote or co-wrote five of the album's 9 tracks, as did Roberts (mathematicians will note this means that they co-wrote one track together, but it doesn't tell you that Bratton and Castner were co-writers on it, too.). Recently re-released on CD, new fans now have an opportunity to hear where it all began nearly 17 years ago.

The Visit Revisited (0:59) / Happy Armies Fight In Their Sleep (3:48) / Under Heaven There Is Great Disorder (And The Situation Is Excellent) (3:31) / The Artist's House (3:21) / Spill (10:44) / Dreams Of Peace (4:13) / No Charge (5:12) / Earth, I Wait (7:47) / The Visit (5:52)

Mike Sary - bass
Stephen Roberts - roland juno 60, roland jx3p, Fender Rhodes, piano, trumpet, vibes; drums (9)
Artie Bratton - acoustic and electric guitars
Fenner Castner - drums and percussion
Jeff Jones - sax (3)
Jon Weiner - cello (8)

French TV (1994)
After A Lengthy Silence (1987)
Virtue In Futility (1994)
Intestinal Fortitude (1995)
Live: YOO-HOO!!! (1997)
The Violence of Amateurs (1999)
The Case Against Art (2002)
Pardon Our French (2004)
This Is What We Do (2006)
I Forgive You For All My Unhappiness (1CD) (2010)
I Forgive You For All My Unhappiness (2CD) (2010)
Ambassadors Of Good Health ANd Clean Living (2016)
Operation: MOCKINGBIRD (2017)

Genre: RIO

Origin US

Added: March 27th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1507
Language: english


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