French TV – The Violence Of Amateurs [Pretentious Dinosaur Records, 1999]

French TV - The Violence Of AmateursThis 1999 release by the Louisville, Kentucky band French TV seems to defy explanation. It’s very uncommon for me to find a musical work difficult to understand, but “The Violence Of Amateurs” is one such album. What this band has created here is something extremely original, even in the eccentric and complicated Avant-Prog arena that it belongs to. Therefore, the most jaded of music snobs will probably be impressed by what this record has to offer.

First and foremost, “The Violence Of Amateurs” is a very complex experience. Its challenging aspects – and the difficulties in understanding what’s going on here – have to do with the way the melodies are arranged and the variations that are created throughout its time span. The melodies contained within this album, in-and-of-themselves, are fairly approachable. There’s very little pure atonality or dissonance either, so the melodic scope is easily processed mentally. Despite these attributes, however, the melodic constituents and their corresponding time signatures change (sometimes drastically) every 20 seconds to 1 minute over the course of one’s time spent with this. There are some melodies that last longer but, for the most part, the listener is taken on a nonstop roller coaster ride through musical whimsy for over an hour. Therefore, the core concept presented here is very intriguing, but eludes the ability to make full sense of what being is heard. It expects a lot out of the listener, and, while this would not be everyone’s “cup of tea” by any means, seasoned aficionados of Avant-Prog and other esoteric/Avant-Garde genres who are equipped with the listening experience and patience needed to enjoy these sounds will, most likely, come to respect what French TV has created.

To further illustrate my point though, I’ll say that, of all the Avant-Prog I’ve heard, this album stands out to me as being the most mysterious. If I broke down the distinctive musical/conceptual qualities of key players in the same basic field, I’d give Henry Cow a lot of credit for their darker experimentalism, and Aksak Maboul for their unusual combination of sophistication and quirkiness. Albert Marcoeur would win first place for their complexity and paramount sense of humor, while Slapp Happy would come in first for their strange, highbrow pop music. French TV, in turn, earns attention for their intelligence, murkiness and intensity.

All in all, “The Violence Of Amateurs” just falls into the rare variety of albums that are difficult to “put one’s finger on.” The listener is just left scratching their head and attempting to make sense of what they’re hearing. Don’t worry, though, it’s an acquired taste.

Joseph A. Bremson
The Exciting Sounds Project

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