French TV - The Violence Of Amateurs

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Pretentious Dinosaur Records
Catalog Number: CD004
Format: CD
Total Time: 65:18:00

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 know 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 60s 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...

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)

Mike Sary - bass and percussion
Dean Zigoris - guitar, keyboards, vocal, percussion, synth guitar, noise, and 'ye old analogue synthesizer'
Bob Douglas - drums (1,5)
Greg Acker - flute, sax, Hawaiian nose flute, and percussion (1, 3 -5)
John Encifer - keyboards
Eugene Chadbourne - banjo
John Robinson - keyboards, '1/4'' jack noise' (1, 3, 5, 6)
Brian Donohue - drums (2, 3, 6)
Steve Good - saxes, clarinets (2)
Chris Vincent - drums, vocal, percussion, and 'popsicles' (4)
Cathy Moeller - violin (4)
Kirk Davis - vocal, percussion, 'unbridled enthusiasm' (4)

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: August 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1040
Language: english


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